SINGAPORE – Companies found to have unsafe work conditions or poor risk controls may be barred from hiring new foreign workers.

In sounding the warning, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that bosses of these companies will also need to personally account for these lapses.

The new measures are part of a six-month heightened safety period that kicked off on Thursday – a significant move to stem a worrying rise in the number of work-related deaths and injuries this year.

The number rose to 36 last week, one shy of the 37 recorded in the whole of last year.

From Thursday until Sept 15, companies in traditionally high-risk sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, as well as sectors that use heavy or industrial vehicles like lorries and forklifts, will also need to allocate sufficient time to review safety procedures and conduct a safety time-out, MOM said on Thursday.

This is the first time such safety time-outs are being made mandatory.

The activities conducted as part of this will need to be documented, and this will be checked by MOM officers during routine inspections.

Companies that fail to comply will be barred from hiring new foreign workers for a month.

The construction sector was the top contributor of workplace fatalities this year, with 13 so far.

Hence, MOM will also introduce specific measures targeting the industry from Oct 1 onwards.

First, the demerit points system for construction firms here will be tightened, with the threshold for points to be awarded lowered.

Previously, firms would start to incur demerit points after being fined four times for safety lapses. With the stricter regime, demerit points will be awarded from the first fine onwards.

The number of demerit points given for serious accidents will also be raised from 18 to 25, giving it equal weight as fatal accidents.

MOM also gave more details about the standardised criteria that will be used by the public sector to disqualify unsafe companies from participating in public construction tenders.

From Oct 1, main contractors and first-level sub-contractors that accrue 25 demerit points or are enrolled in MOM’s Business Under Surveillance programme will be disqualified from public construction tenders for a period between three months and two years.