Three reasons why the construction industry needs background checks, now.

Hotel New World was a six-storey, 67-room hotel in Singapore that came crashing down 35 years ago, killing 33 people. Later, a presidential commission investigating the devastating collapse concluded that structural faults, and shoddy design and construction were to blame.1

More recently, Cambodia experienced three major building disasters in eight months during 2019 and early 2020, killing roughly 67 people. According to a news article, problems with  “widespread corruption…unscrupulous businessmen cutting costs with substandard products and poor worker safety standards” are widely viewed as contributing factors to the tragedies.2

Fast forward to this summer, on the other side of the world, where a 13-storey condominium near Miami, Florida in the United States collapsed into a pile of rubble, killing 98 people in the middle of the night. While the disaster is still under investigation, “structural deficiencies” are now the focus of several enquiries, including a grand jury probe.3

The point is, when construction projects fail, the consequences can be deadly. It can happen anytime, anywhere, and sometimes it’s due to human error, oversight or intentional wrongdoing. This is where background checks can help serve as a first line of defence to protect against these and other unique industry risks. Here are three ways they can help.


Always verify experience, skills, professional credentials and licences.

The construction process is multifaceted, from pre-project due diligence, through permitting, funding, construction, inspections and ongoing maintenance. Industry professionals can include financial lenders, architects, designers, engineers, inspectors and more.

If just one of these professionals lacks the proper credentials to perform their part of the construction process, it can jeopardise part, or all, of a project, contributing to:

  • Increased safety risk on the worksite.
  • Potentially unsafe buildings that put occupants at immediate and long-term risk.
  • Compromised business integrity for the employer and all industry partners involved with the project, including the customer who commissioned the project.
  • Higher project costs that exceed budget and threaten project completion.


Criminal history is important—investigate it.

Who cares if a day labourer has a criminal record, right? Well, if that worker has a history of criminal theft, you might think twice about giving them unmonitored access to expensive machinery and heavy equipment. But that’s just one example of why it’s important to perform a criminal records check.

Think about bribery and corruption, both of which are rampant in the construction industry. Last year in Singapore, a resident technical officer was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $7,000 for accepting monetary bribes in exchange for lenient construction site inspections.3 A criminal background check can potentially reveal this offence to help firms avoid hiring this individual in the future, which in turn, helps protect the integrity of the construction business and facilitate safer construction projects.


Substance abuse is a dynamic safety risk—address it early.

A recent Australian study of drinking among construction workers reveals the prevalence of risky drinking within the construction industry is higher than the national average, with one in six construction workers reporting workmates being visibly affected by alcohol in the workplace.5

It’s simple: if a construction worker is impaired due to drug or alcohol use, it can put everyone in danger, while also posing a financial and reputational risk to business owners and project partners.

Incorporating drug testing into the pre-hire screening process can help by detecting potential issues before a candidate is hired. Likewise, it can also help deter candidates with substance abuse issues from applying in the first place.


For more tips and best practise observations based on background searches that are commonly ordered within the construction industry, download our Background Screening Solutions for Construction Industry tip sheet. We’re here to help.
Jail for man who took bribes and was lenient in construction site inspections of Singapore Customs building, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

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