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Written Answer by Mr Lim Swee Say Minister for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on non-compliance to approved operating procedures at SMRT

Notice paper no. 608 for the sitting on 03 April 2017

Question no. 1074 for written answer

MP: Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong

To ask the Minister for Manpower with regard to SMRT's non-compliance with approved operating procedures since 2002 and till the fatal accident in March 2016 (a) whether the Ministry had inspected SMRT for workplace safety during this period; and (b) why did the system failures in management of workplace safety go undetected and uncorrected for so long.


  1. Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace. We enacted the Workplace Safety and Health Act to ensure that safety and health risks to workers are eliminated or mitigated to as low as reasonably practicable. It holds employers and occupiers responsible for putting in place effective safety systems to ensure the safety and health of their workers. 
  2. To enforce the Act, MOM takes a proactive and risk-based approach in our inspections. We focus on sectors with a high likelihood of an accident occurring, or where an accident could result in severe consequences. We target workplaces with activities that have recorded high number of injuries nationally. These inspections serve as deterrence against non-compliance and educate companies on the preventive measures. When an incident occurs, MOM investigates to determine the root causes and culpability of the companies and/or individuals involved. We take appropriate prosecution actions depending on the culpability of the offender and the extent of harm. 
  3. In the case of SMRT, MOM conducted 10 workplace safety inspections at various train depots from 2002 to 2015. Our inspections focused on work-at-height activities and falling objects hazards, which were the main causes of workplace fatalities during that period. Following the March 2016 fatal accident, our investigation established that SMRT’s employees failed to comply with the established work procedures. We were also of the view that such failures could have been detected and remedied internally by SMRT if there was an effective system of safety checks and audits. This is why the Public Prosecutor pressed for a sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the case, and the Court fined SMRT $400,000. This is the highest fine ever imposed for a WSH violation. 
  4. Madam Chair, safeguarding the safety and health of our workers must be the top priority of all businesses. Both employers and workers must take collective ownership of safety and health outcomes. Together, we can ensure our workers return home from work safe and healthy every single day.