10% of construction workforce to resume in 'controlled manner' by June: BCA

·Senior Editor
·3-min read
Workers start their shift at a construction site in the central business district area here. (Reuters file photo)
Workers start their shift at a construction site in the central business district area here. (Reuters file photo)

SINGAPORE — By next month, about 10 per cent of the construction workforce would resume work in a controlled manner in phases, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on Friday (15 May).

“A gradual resumption is necessary, to minimise the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks among construction workers,” it added.

Most construction work has been suspended since the circuit breaker began on 7 April. The circuit breaker period will end on 1 June.

Only about five per cent of the construction workforce, or some 20,000 workers, are currently working on a “very small number of critical infrastructure projects and those that have to continue for safety reasons”.

Another five per cent of the construction workforce are expected to resume in June, said BCA CEO Hugh Lim during a virtual technical briefing held on Friday.

These include projects that cannot be left idle for too long due to safety concerns, as well as critical and time-sensitive projects, such as MRT and Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS) tunnelling projects.

Previously suspended residential renovation works will also be allowed to resume, and the BCA is looking at a “full range of projects”, including Build To Order Housing Board flats, said Lim.

All works will require approval from the authority before they can resume, while foreign workers in the construction industry must be tested before they are allowed to return to work, said the BCA.

The workers would likely be tested every two weeks with the details on costs to be worked out with the Ministry of Health, according to Lim. The costs for the regular testing should be borne by the employers, he said.

Construction projects must also put in place adequate safe management measures, such as workers downloading the TraceTogether app and a system to track workers’ health status, said Lim.

These also include ensuring dedicated transport between the worksite and places of accommodation, as well as appointing Safe Management Officers (SMOs) to oversee these measures.

All workers will have to reduce physical interaction, work staggered hours, and use personal protective equipment on-site, he added.

Worksite premises should also be adequately disinfected, provided with adequate handwash stations, and where facilities are shared, be well-ventilated.

Chew Ee Tien, director of foreign manpower division at the Ministry of Manpower said that workers who have recovered will be housed separately in blocks for recovered workers (BRWs).

She added that dormitory operators must track all movement in and out of the dorms and ensure workers only leave the premises for work.

Measures will also be taken to reduce crowd size at popular sites for gatherings as well as to limit the intermixing of workers, especially at communal facilities like toilets and kitchens.

Lim said, “We are venturing into unknown space – how to operate safely in a COVID world. We will have to do it carefully, tightly controlled for at least one to two months. We want to avoid a situation where the industry will have to stop again on a large scale.”

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