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Back to NewsroomWork from Height
September 25, 2023By Belle Sie

Preventing Slips, Trips, Struck by Object, Fall from Height: How Digital Permit to Work (PTW) Systems Enhance Safety


Safety is an essential factor in the construction industry, and it is taken very seriously in Singapore. The city-state has established a comprehensive regulatory framework to ensure the safety of construction workers and the public. The Permit to Work (PTW) system is a crucial element of this framework, governing various aspects of construction activities. This article will explore how digital PTW systems, also known as ePTW, are helping to prevent accidents, especially work at height or falls from heights (FFH), and how they align with Singapore's unwavering commitment to construction safety.

What is PTW in Singapore? 

The PTW regulation in Singapore is a well-organised and systematic procedure that approves specific work to be carried out safely and with minimal risk. Its primary objective is to protect the safety and well-being of workers and the public by minimising potential hazards associated with construction work.

The PTW system in Singapore consists of various essential elements such as hazard identification, comprehensive risk assessments, development of safe work practices, and issuance of permits. Both main contractors and subcontractors must adhere strictly to these regulations to operate legally in the construction industry. Learn more about the ten types of permit-to-work.

The MOM's Demerit Points System and Business Under Surveillance Program

Besides the stringent PTW regulations, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has implemented the rigorous Business Under Surveillance (BUS) Program, a robust framework designed to closely monitor contractors' safety practices and overall compliance in work environments. The BUS Program serves as a proactive mechanism for the construction industry, driving contractors to be accountable for their safety practices. It encourages a culture of safety management that is forward-thinking and constantly evolving. 

Another critical facet of Singapore's safety framework is the Demerit Points System, in which MOM assigns demerit points to contractors violating safety regulations. Contractors accumulating many demerit points may face penalties, suspension, or even debarment from public projects. This system is a powerful incentive for contractors to prioritise safety.

What are the Most Common Workplace Accidents?

The issue of workplace accidents in Singapore's construction industry is still a significant concern. These accidents include slips, trips, falls (STFs), and incidents where objects hit individuals. Understanding these accidents is crucial in developing effective prevention measures.

As of September 14, 2023, it's worth highlighting that the largest contingent of subcontractors within the DPS belongs to the category of Interior Decoration & Finishing Works. This group, numbering 83 subcontractors, specialises in working on ceiling panels, partitions, built-in fitments, raised floor works, plastering, and tiling. Furthermore, 50 subcontractors specialising in Waterproofing Installation, which involves waterproofing basements, roofs, and walls, are also subject to the DPS.

With such a significant number of subcontractors operating under the DPS, it becomes evident why certain types of accidents have been particularly prevalent. For instance, STFs have emerged as the primary cause of non-fatal injuries in 2022, constituting 33% of major injuries, 28% of minor injuries, and resulting in a total of 200 significant injuries. FFH closely follows as the second most common cause of substantial injuries, accounting for 14% of such cases.

Given the substantial risks associated with these types of accidents, it is imperative to emphasise the importance of implementing digital PTW systems as a means to mitigate these risks and enhance overall safety in the construction industry.

What are the Common Accidents When Working at Height?

Working at height refers to situations where an individual might fall from a significant distance, potentially causing personal injury. This includes working on elevated areas, scaffolding, ladders, roofs, and falling from vehicles.

What are the Most Common Root Causes of Workplace Accidents?

It is crucial to comprehend the underlying reasons behind workplace accidents to avoid them from happening again. Frequently, these reasons stem from inadequate safety measures and training, poor communication, or workers' complacency. In the next segment of this article, we will delve into real-life case studies of STFs and FFH.

Practical Insights: Real WSH Case Studies and How Digital PTW Can Safeguard Workers

Fall from Heights - Formwork and Ladders

Description: Workers falling from elevated structures during formwork installation and ladder use.
Common Root Causes: Inadequate safety measures, lack of training, ineffective risk assessment, failure to use lifelines, and unsafe ladder use.
Recommendations: Conduct proper risk assessments, ensure effective communication, provide safety training, implement lifelines and safety harnesses, consider weather conditions during outdoor work, secure ladders, and ensure ladder safety training.
PTW Integration: Before any work at heights, it is imperative to issue a PTW. The digital PTW system ensures that all essential safety measures, including lifelines, harnesses, and ladder safety protocols, are meticulously documented and confirmed. This is especially crucial for outdoor tasks where weather conditions can impact safety. The digital PTW process emphasises the necessity of comprehensive risk assessments and underscores the commitment to safety.

Falls Through Openings - Elevated Areas

Description: Workers fall through openings or while accessing elevated areas in various work scenarios.
Common Root Causes: Improper work methods, lack of specific safety procedures, inadequate risk assessments, and improper adjustment of guardrails.
Recommendations: Conduct proper risk assessments, implement safe work procedures, provide adequate training, and ensure appropriate guarding of openings.
PTW Integration: When working in high places or around openings, it is required to have a digital PTW. This electronic process checks that all necessary safety procedures have been followed, risks have been assessed thoroughly, and safeguards have been appropriately installed. The digital PTW stresses the importance of proper guarding and following safe work methods, which results in a safer work environment for employees.

Falls Through Openings - Roofs and Skylights

Description: Workers falling through openings in roofs and skylights.
Common Root Causes: Lack of safety training, absence of fall prevention measures, and failure to identify hazards.
Recommendations: Adequate safety training, installation of safety measures for fragile roofs, supervision, and hazard identification.
PTW Integration: Before commencing any work on roofs or skylights, it is crucial to issue a meticulous digital PTW. This digital process ensures robust safety measures to prevent falls through openings and guarantees that workers are adequately trained. The digital PTW highlights an unwavering commitment to safety, leaving no room for oversight.

Falls on Sloping Surfaces and Scaffold-Related Falls

Description: Workers fall from sloping roofs and scaffold-related incidents.
Common Root Causes: Ineffective implementation of fall prevention measures, inadequate supervision, unsafe work methods, and unstable scaffold surfaces.
Recommendations: Proper risk assessment, full implementation of fall prevention measures, safety harness use, edge protection, scaffold-related training, and good housekeeping.
PTW Integration: When working on sloping surfaces and scaffolds, it is crucial to obtain a digital PTW. This protocol confirms that essential safety measures, such as safety harnesses and edge protection, are in place and that thorough risk assessments have been conducted. By using a digital PTW, you can ensure a commitment to safety and eliminate any possibility of error.

Falls from Vehicles

Description: Workers fall while climbing onto or off vehicles.
Common Root Causes: Failure to secure vehicle components, lack of proper handholds or support, absence of risk assessments, and non-compliance with legislative requirements.
Recommendations: Conduct thorough risk assessments, establish safe work procedures, ensure proper training, and comply with legislative requirements for secure vehicle access and egress.
PTW Integration: When accessing and exiting vehicles, it is mandatory to use a digital PTW. This digital process ensures that safe work procedures are in place and that all legal requirements, such as adequately securing vehicle components, are met. The digital PTW is strongly dedicated to safety and regulatory compliance, protecting all personnel involved.

Explore the specifics of the case studies by WSH in their official reports. For additional case studies, you can also refer to the WSH's extensive collection.

Read also: Exyte Singapore's Safety Excellence in GlobalFoundries Singapore Expansion Facility Project


Singapore's construction industry remains steadfast in its commitment to enhancing safety standards. Digital PTW systems, the BUS Program and the Demerit Points System form a formidable trio in achieving this goal. As the industry advances, it must prioritise safety, wholeheartedly embrace digital innovations, and draw inspiration from success stories to create a safer and more secure working environment for all stakeholders involved in construction activities. Schedule a demo with us today to find out how our PTW module in Hubble Safety Management System can enhance your organisation’s safety processes.  

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