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Construction Buttressed by Public Sector Projects

After a dip in 2015, construction demand is heading up, driven by strong public sector requirements. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) estimates that S$29-34 billion worth of construction contracts will be awarded in 2016, with almost two-thirds generated by the public sector.

Civil engineering accounts for a sizeable chunk of Singapore’s construction demand as the country ramps up public works. According to the BCA’s director of Economic Research Department Lo Yen Lee, civil engineering contracts are expected to make up 38.7% of construction demand in 2016, up from 19.9% in the previous year.

Major infrastructure projects include the new MRT lines, the 21-kilometre North-South Expressway which will run parallel to the Central Expressway, associated infrastructure works for Changi Airport Terminal 5 and phase two of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System.

If the estimates are met, it will be the highest proportion of construction demand from the public sector since 2002, when public sector contracts accounted for 66.6% of the total.

Further ahead, for 2017 to 2020, the BCA expects S$26-37 billion worth of contracts to be awarded each year, with the public sector providing a sizeable chunk of the total, as there is a strong pipeline of public sector projects, all of which are needed for Singapore’s long-term needs.

In 2015, total construction demand eased to S$27.2 billion from a record high of S$37.7 billion in the previous year. Demand fell short of the BCA’s earlier estimates of S$29-36 billion as some major public infrastructure contracts were rescheduled to 2016.

Getting to Grips with Construction Safety
The industry is working to improve its safety record, with the aim of reducing workplace fatality rate to 1.8 workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers by 2018. A six-point plan has been developed by key stakeholders, including eight industry associations, the Public Sector Workplace Safety and Health Commitment Group and the Building and Timber Industries Employees’ Union. Among them are:
• Providing leadership with leaders setting the tone and walk the talk to influence the behaviour on the ground;
• Using procurement to drive improvement by including worker safety and health (WSH) conditions when awarding tenders for example;
• Design for Safety (DfS) – thinking about safety and incorporating safety features right from the design stage;
• Training to ensure that workers are competent to work safely; and
• Sharing of good WSH practices among stakeholders within the industry to help raise WSH standards.

Regulations have also been tightened to improve worksite safety, as fatality rate in the industry has stayed high. Under the WSH (Design for Safety) Regulations 2015, which takes effect on 1 August 2016, all projects with contract value of S$10 million and above are required to incorporate the necessary risk control solutions in the design stages, making it easier and safer for builders and facility operators.

When designing a building with green walls, for example, designers may have to construct rotating wall panels in green walls to facilitate upkeep.

A DfS review process to record and manage risks will have to be implemented by the developer at every stage of the construction project. A DfS register must also be set up to warn those along the construction process of potential risks. It will also record risks that cannot be remedied through design changes. Such risks have to be communicated to all workers and employees.

Those who contravene the regulations can be fined up to S$20,000 and face a one-year jail term.

By working in concert to reduce workplace fatality, the industry will be a safer and healthier place to work in.