Written Answer to PQ by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng on leading causes of workplace accidents due to cost-cutting measures resulting in safety lapses
NOTICE PAPER NO. 733 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON 5 OCTOBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1170 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) from January 2021 to date, what are the leading causes of workplace accidents; (b) what role is played by ancillary factors such as cost-cutting measures that result in safety lapses; and (c) what considerations have been given towards heavier punishments to deter such behaviour amongst companies.
For the first six months this year, the leading causes of workplace fatal accidents are falls from height and vehicular-related accidents. For non-fatal workplace accidents, the leading causes are slips, trips and falls, and machinery-related accidents. The Ministry regularly publishes reports on workplace accidents and their causes. The next release will be in early October 2021. The Member can look at these published sources for more information.
Investigations into many accidents, including fatal ones, reveal safety lapses such as unguarded openings and open sides, and poor maintenance of heavy machinery. These suggest that adherence to safe work procedures has not been sustained. While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to cost pressures on affected businesses, it is unclear the degree to which this has contributed to safety lapses at the workplace. The Ministry does not condone any actions, cost-cutting or otherwise, that compromises safety. Employers are very clear that the safety of the workers must not be compromised under any circumstances, and the Ministry will not hesitate to take stern action against companies, officers and management for safety lapses.
The severity of the sentence that is imposed on an accused company or individual is ultimately a matter for the sentencing Court to decide. The Prosecution assists the Court in its deliberations by: (a) drawing the Court's attention to relevant case law and sentencing guidelines from the High Court, if any; (b) highlighting the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, including the culpability of the accused and the potential and actual harm; and (c) submitting for an appropriate sentence, in line with the Ministry’s observations on developing trends and areas of safety concern.