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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to PQ on Surge of Workplace Fatalities in November 2019

NOTICE PAPER NO. 1935 FOR THE SITTING ON 6 JANUARY 2020

QUESTION NO. 3360 FOR ORAL ANSWER

 

MP: Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye

 

To ask the Minister for Manpower on the sudden surge of workplace fatalities in November 2019: (a) what industries do these workers work in; (b) what are the reasons behind the spike in fatality numbers; and (c) what more is the Ministry doing to prevent such workplace fatalities.

 

Answer:

  1. There were nine fatal workplace accidents in the month of November 2019, compared to an average of four per month in the past three years.  The unusually high number of cases is a cause of concern for the Ministry.  Therefore, we had probed deeper to uncover if there were any specific reasons or trends for the spate of accidents.  

  2. Of the nine fatalities, four were from the construction sector, two from marine, two from services, and one from manufacturing. 

  3. There was no dominant trend that contributed to the spate of accidents in November. Nonetheless, MOM, together with the industry partners, stepped up on engagement and enforcement efforts in November. We worked with the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council to organise an Industry Safety Timeout as a reminder to all contractors and workers to remain vigilant while at work.  To send a strong signal to the industry, Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad led a team of enforcement officers on a surprise visit to a worksite, where the officers uncovered multiple WSH lapses.  In response, we issued a full Stop Work Order. MOM’s Stop Work Orders stay in force for a minimum of 3 weeks to ensure that the company’s leadership appropriate actions to correct their safety practices and risk assessments. We expect companies to rectify all unsafe conditions and demonstrate to us their ability to better manage WSH on site before MOM lifts the Stop Work Order.  

  4. We will ramp up inspections by conducting 400 inspections until February 2020, targeting high-risk industries such as construction, marine, as well as manufacturing.  We will also conducted checks on similar equipment that were involved in two of the fatal accidents to prevent recurrence. These unfortunate accidents highlight the need for occupiers and employers to be more diligent in their risk management and mitigation, and not take WSH for granted. 

  5. Beyond the immediate-term engagement and enforcement efforts, we need longer-term measures to motivate more employers and occupiers to take greater ownership of risk awareness and mitigation. In 2020, we are progressively implementing the recommendations set out in the WSH 2028 Tripartite Strategies Committee report. They include publishing the safety performance of firms, and establishing a framework for public sector developers to disqualify unsafe contractors, including first-level sub-contractors. These moves will align businesses’ commercial interests more closely to workplace safety. This will spur companies to be more serious in risk management and preventing accidents.