by Toolbox Staff
In December 2016, a construction company in Singapore was handed the country’s largest-ever fine under its Workplace Health and Safety Act. The S$250,000 (C$230,660) fine was imposed on GS Engineering and Construction Corp for “failing to take adequate safety measures for the works carried out by its employees.”
The fine was the result of an incident that occurred in January 2014, where two workers were killed in a fall from the seventh floor of an 11-storey tower project.
According to the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore, under the instructions of a company foreman, the workers were loading an air compressor onto a platform on the seventh floor of the project. But the platform was not properly secured; it was suspended by crane. As the compressor was loaded onto the platform, it rolled away from the edge of the building and the platform tilted. The workers could not get out of the compressor’s path in time.
The company was initially fined S$150,000 (C$138,416), but the Ministry of Manpower appealed. The maximum penalty under Singapore’s Workplace Health and Safety Act is S$500,000 (C$461,301).
The foreman of an excavation company based in Long Island has been sentenced to one to three years in prison for endangering several construction workers at the New York City construction site he was managing and for causing the death of a 22-year-old worker in April 2016.
Wilmer Cueva, 51, was a foreman for Sky Materials who was supervising the excavation of a Restoration Hardware site in Manhattan. He had been acquitted on manslaughter charges but was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in November 2016.
According to a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr., at 9:45 a.m. on April 6, 2016, an inspector noticed that a seven-foot-deep trench on site was not secured and alerted Cueva. But he didn’t stop work on the site and, less than an hour later, the trench was 13 feet deep. The inspector noticed several workers in the unsecured trench and again issued Cueva a warning. Cueva allowed work to continue, however, and at approximately 11:50 a.m., the trench collapsed. Carlos Mancayo, 22, an undocumented worker from Ecuador, was crushed to death.
“I hope that the justice obtained for his preventable death will galvanize other construction supervisors to prioritize their workers’ safety ahead of expediency and profit,” Vance said in the release.
In the country of Qatar, average high temperature over the summer months are around 42 degrees Celsius, creating dangerous conditions for construction workers. But officials are hoping a newly developed product will give workers and employers the information necessary to keep everyone safe.
The new Hawa’ak platform was developed by the Qatar Mobility and Innovations Centre (QMIC), and monitors heat, humidity, air quality and radiation levels in real-time to give a better overall picture of conditions and how safe workers are in them.
“It is something that becomes a business enabler as well as an innovative way of dealing with heat conditions,” Dr. Adnan Abu-Dayya, executive director and CEO of QMIC, told the Gulf Times in February.
“It involves all the stakeholders right from decision makers to end users. It will show the world that we are doing our part to help the labourers,” he added.
The platform was to be displayed at the Qatar Information and Communication Technology Conference and Exhibition in early March, and then made available to QMIC’s national partners within a few months.
Officials in New Zealand are rolling out a new online safety test for construction workers, with the end goal of cutting down on the number of injuries that industry sees each year.
Between April 2016 and mid-February 2017, the ConstructSafe Scheme test had been taken by almost 5,000 workers across the country. In the local government region of Northland, almost 400 workers had taken the test, and the pass rate was at 75 per cent.
ConstructSafe was developed by the Construction Safety Council of New Zealand. Administrator Martin Riding told the Northland Advocate that it was developed after the Pike River Mine disaster in November 2010 to bring down the high number of construction injuries. Twenty-nine people died in the coal mining accident along the country’s west coast.
The test takes about 40 minutes to complete, and tests workers’ knowledge in roadbuilding, residential construction, commercial construction, specialized trades, utilities and consulting. Riding said it helps employers and officials find out in which areas more training is needed. “The test identifies gaps in knowledge, which managers can then address with specific training,” he said.
Amid a construction boom in the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia and specifically its capital city of Phnom Penh, it appears that worker safety is being left behind.
A December 2016 report in English-language newspaper The Cambodia Daily said that, as the number and scale of construction projects in the country continue to climb, so too are the number of workplace accidents – reaching “tens of thousands” in 2012 and 2013. The report included photos of construction workers high above the ground either with no safety belts or with them unsecured.
The Cambodian government has issued a number of prakas – or proclamations from government ministers – pertaining to workplace safety, including making sure there is a sanitary toilet on site and keeping sites at a “tolerable temperature.” But officials with safety consulting firms interviewed by The Cambodia Daily said that government enforcement of those decisions is either poor or non-existent, and it’s often up to the companies to make sure the rules are followed.
The report also notes that there is resistance from workers themselves, especially those with small local companies, who would not like to see insurance or equipment costs deducted from their wages.