NEW guidelines to improve the safety of employees working at height will be launched early next year.

Jointly developed by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and the Manpower Ministry, this national competency framework will help provide all levels of staff with the skills needed to work safely above ground level.

The first safety and health competency framework to be developed in Singapore for a specific area of work, it was announced at a forum on Wednesday.

The guidelines will form the basis for training courses. To develop the framework, the WSH Council and Manpower Ministry conducted a review of the situation here as well in as other countries, such as Britain, that have similar guidelines.

Its review showed that for almost all countries surveyed, it was mandatory to develop a fall prevention plan, a system of seeking permission to work at height and training workers to use a Personal Fall Arrest System properly. A pilot of the guidelines has already been implemented.

Falls from height are the leading cause of workplace deaths here. In the past five years, more than 100 workers have died from fatal falls. So far, 16 have died from falls this year.

Mr Suresh Navaratnam, a Manpower Ministry director and member of the National Work at Heights Safety Taskforce, said: "This comprehensive and encompassing framework will help us to ensure the standards we hope to achieve can be carried out by managers, supervisors and workers."

He urged all industry stakeholders to sign their employees up for courses once they are available early next year.