Even as construction companies strive to ramp up productivity, this should not be done at the expense of safety. In fact, more should be done to recognise safety works as a professional job.

Speaking at the Singapore Contractors Association Limited's (SCAL) annual dinner last night, SCAL president Ho Nyok Yong said that the association has lobbied both the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to recognise and register workers in the safety trade as CoreTrade personnel.

"Currently, there is no route for (employees working in the safety field) to become CoreTrade workers. This is unfair as safety works is also a professional job, and requires skills," said Dr Ho.

CoreTrade (Construction Registration of Tradesmen) is a registration scheme that is administered by BCA for skilled and experienced construction employees, and provides a form of recognition for their experience and skills.

Indeed, productivity is hampered if safety is not taken care of, said Dr Ho.

In the first six months of this year, there were 25 workplace fatal injuries nationwide. The construction sector was the largest contributor - the sector accounted for 11 deaths in the first half of this year, up from nine previously.

As part of efforts to improve safety while working at heights, SCAL has initiated a RoofSAFE Contractor Scheme, which aims to tighten procedures for the roof-work community, said Dr Ho.

The scheme, which has earned strong commendation and support from MOM and WSH Council, requires that members possess bizSAFE level 3 certification, are competent to work at heights, and are members of SCAL.

This is in addition to the safety site visits introduced last year, in which member companies volunteer their sites for visitation. So far, SCAL has visited five projects.

Separately, Dr Ho noted that even as the outlook for the construction industry in the next two years is positive - given that the government has committed to building more public housing and infrastructure works - construction firms should keep vigilant.

Indeed, several construction companies have filed for insolvency in recent months, said Dr Ho, noting that while most are smaller firms, some are bigger ones that have buckled due to the pressure of rising costs.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin attended SCAL's 76th annual dinner yesterday at the Shangri-La Hotel.