COVID-19: Construction companies in Singapore asked to follow strict measures once work resumes

Gurdip Singh

Singapore, May 15 (PTI) Construction companies in Singapore have been asked to follow strict safety measures like the regular testing of the foreign workers for the coronavirus once the work resumes on the pending projects next month after the completion of the 'circuit breaker' period, a senior government official has said.

Singapore's Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has said the government will gradually lift some of the measures in June that are targeting the migrant workers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Foreign workers living in dormitories in Singapore form the bulk of the COVID-19 infections in the country which till Thursday has recorded 26,098 cases.

Singapore on Tuesday allowed some businesses, including food manufacturers, barbers, specific food retail outlets, to reopen.

Construction companies must implement safety measures for workers when projects gradually resume after the 'circuit breaker' period ends on June 1, including regular COVID-19 tests and managing their interaction, Channel News Asia reported on Friday.

Every worker will be required to download contact tracing app TraceTogether, and employers should put in place a system to track the daily health status of every worker, said Hugh Lim, CEO of the state agency, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), told reporters on Friday.

Currently, about 20,000 workers, or about five per cent of the construction workforce - have been allowed to work on a small number of critical infrastructure projects during the circuit breaker period.

Lim expects another 20,000 workers to gradually resume work next month.

Work will resume on critical and time-sensitive projects from June 2 as these cannot be left idle for too long due to safety concerns. These are multi-million-dollar projects such as part of the subway and tunnelling of a deep tunnel sewerage system.

Previously suspended residential renovation works will also be allowed to resume, Lim said.

Employers will also have to house and separate workers based on the projects they are working on under a “cohorting” strategy, and provide transport services between the work site and their accommodation, Lim said, adding that workers from different projects will not be allowed to mix with each other.

At the work sites itself, companies will have to appoint safe management officers to enforce the safety measures, put up health advisory posters and infographics in the foreign workers’ native languages, and install “technology-enabled processes” - such as the digital SafetyEntry system used islandwide right now - when workers enter and exit specific zones within the worksite.

Workers will be split into teams and restricted to work in a single zone; no cross-deployment or interaction between workers in different teams will be allowed, according to the Channel report.

Contractors must provide workers with individually packed meals and utensils as well as masks while they are on the job.

Facilities that are shared and heavily used will have to be well-ventilated and disinfected frequently, while hand-washing stations must be installed at exit points.

Two other labour-intensive and employing a large number of foreign workers industries - the marine and offshore and the process sector - are also developing their own COVID safety plans that will be released in due course, Ministry of Manpower permanent secretary Aubeck Kam said.

The BCA said that it will audit and inspect work sites to make sure they observe these COVID-19 safety rules. PTI GS RS RS