SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE FIRE SAFETY (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir
As a densely populated country with many tall buildings, we must take fire safety very seriously. There are cases when fires occurred in HDB and commercial units and did not spread. That is due to the equipment of necessary fire safety features, strict regulations in our fire safety code on usage to use of construction material that restricts flammability and permeation of flames, and of course, the efficiency of SCDF in reacting to fire emergencies. I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the SCDF for their good work in keeping Singapore safe.
Older buildings without the necessary fire safety features remain at risk.
The UK Grenfell fire disaster, while far from home, remains a stark reminder to developed countries of what could happen if building developers use inappropriate construction material and scrimp on fire safety features. An entire building was demolished, scores of people died, survivors left homeless and in despair. The incident prompted questions and concerns from myself and my colleagues about whether this could happen in Singapore.
Over the years we talked about the need for greater vigilance against fires, and personally, I’d advocated for the installation of safety features like smoke and fire alarms in all public rental flats, a project which kick-started last year and is currently underway. SCDF also identified and ordered some buildings to remove external cladding that did not meet fire safety requirements. Today I am glad to see the results of a comprehensive review that will bring about many enhancements to current fire safety policies.
Everyone in the supply chain has a role to play and must be held responsible, not just the engineers, architects or Registered Inspectors. Contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, testing labs, all need to carry out their work professionally and honestly. Those who fall short shall be taken to task by this Fire Safety Act.
As our buildings get older, and extreme weather conditions and lack of maintenance could affect and even speed up the ageing process. It is imperative that safety checks are done regularly on these buildings. I am glad to note that SCDF will soon be able to appoint authorised third parties to conduct routine fire safety enforcement checks and building inspections.
Understandably SCDF may not have the resources on top of their regular duties, and plan to outsource this operation. I note that these authorised third parties would comprise auxiliary police officers, retired SCDF and police officers as well as other public servants. I would like to ask how often will these routine checks be conducted? What criteria and benchmarks would SCDF use to determine whether selected candidates are suitable for the roles? Would SCDF also consider registered fire safety engineers from the private sector, and if so, would they be required to submit a tender for their proposed services? In some industries, the competition in checking fees is so fierce that the fees become very low, and the quality of the checks suffers as well. I hope SCDF will not let this happen to the fire safety checking profession.
How often will these third-party operations be audited by the SCDF? With the requirement for body-worn cameras, will the footage be reviewed regularly? What are issues that SCDF foresees that would justify the need for body cameras? These inspections and reviews would cost time and resources, so who will pay for it? Will the government shoulder the expenses or is it the building owner who has to pay for these inspections?
SCDF has identified some 500 old buildings to undergo critical fire safety upgrades necessary for public safety. What is the time frame given for the building owners to comply? And, what if they failed to do so? What if they dispute the order and drag out the case? Would this then result in the occupants and visitors being exposed to a fire safety issue whenever they are in the building.
On the other hand, there may be some practical reasons causing failure to comply. Perhaps the building owner may not have other plans for the property, or he or she could be away and the stand-in is unable to make the financial decisions. What will be done to speed up the process? Can the Minister share the projected timeline for the completion of fire safety upgrades in all these 500 or so buildings?
Every single person has an important role to play in fire safety. Should they act irresponsibly and recklessly, thus putting the lives of other people in danger, they deserve a heavier punishment as a form of deterrence. I note that harsher penalties will apply to certain offences that compromise fire safety. But what about the people who practise dangerous PMD charging habits, and put themselves and their fellow occupants and neighbours in danger? We need to hold people accountable for practising unsafe charging practices, selling or buying not original non complying PMDs, batteries and chargers.
This has been in the news lately and many of my residents are very concern.
First half year, 49 fires, 1 death and is still counting. I hope multi-agencies, SCDF, LTA, HDB will come together and take bold and decisive action.
– I am glad to hear that MOT will bring forward the compliance of UL2272 PMDs, but this does not mean there will be no fire incidents.
– there needs to be more education; proper way of charging, use original parts, battery not leaking, charger not faulty, etc.
– for those who buy/sell non-complying PMDs or modified their PMDs, they deserve harsher punishment
– there are also a lot who shop online – how are we going to regulate this?
– residents also ask, is there any place that buyers can send their PMDs for checking for compliance, just like VICOM checks for cars. Residents want to be law-abiding but they do not know how to go about it.
– for MOE, I hiope you can include a compulsory module in schools on safe riding, correct etiquette and right way of charging etc.
– If we cannot tackle the current problem satisfactorily, I would like to give a bold suggestion – ban the PMDs totally. PMA excluded. Then, step by step, issue licence to those who need them, only after they have attended the mandatory course, passed the exam, bought 3rd party insurance. Just registering the PMDs is not good enough. We need riders with license, and the license can be revoked if they cause serious injury or death. These are the bold and decisive actions that I hope our-multi agencies and seriously look into.
Sir, I support this Bill.
In Chinese please.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MHA here