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Oral Answer to PQ on Deterring unsafe work activities and strengthening WSH ownership

MP: Ms He Ting Ru

To ask the Minister for Manpower whether fines meted out to agencies under the Ministry’s charge are sufficient deterrence to ensure that unsafe activities are not carried out by the agencies’ officers.


1. The Government takes workplace safety and health (WSH) extremely seriously. MOM investigates every fatal case thoroughly to ascertain the culpable parties, and we will not hesitate to take action against those responsible if wrongdoing is found. This includes prosecuting the agencies/ organisations, culpable senior management and individuals.

2. Culpable parties will be taken to task under the WSH Act, where the maximum financial penalty for an organisation and for an individual is a fine of up to $500,000 and $200,000 respectively. An individual can also be imprisoned for up to two years in addition to any fine. These penalties are reviewed regularly. Organisations and individuals found guilty under the Act will also suffer reputational damage.

3. Since the promulgation of the Act in 2006, our workplace fatality rate has improved significantly from 3.1 per 100,000 workers in 2006 to around 1.0 today. However, every fatality is one too many. We will continue to strive towards a workplace fatality rate of below 1.0 by 2028. Only four countries in the world have achieved this consistently ─ the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. No Asian country has done so on a consistent basis.

4. However, improving workplace safety and health cannot be achieved through law and punishments alone. In addition to a good regulatory framework and putting in place sound policies, it is crucial to build a sustainable WSH culture. This requires a sustained and collective effort by organisations, management, industry associations, union leaders and workers. Leaders in the organisations must set the tone and foster a culture and mindset where safety is second nature, and where workers feel safe to report unsafe workplace practices to their employers, supervisors or union leaders. Employers must ensure that their workers are properly trained and equipped with WSH capability and knowledge, and use technology to detect and prevent workplace incidents. Workers themselves must play their part to follow safe work procedures and report unsafe work practices to the appropriate authority. This ensures their own and their colleagues’ safety, so that every worker can return home safely to their loved ones.

5. On the government’s part, we have implemented various measures and programmes over the years to enhance WSH. Most recently, the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety and Health Taskforce (MAST) introduced a series of measures after the Heightened Safety Period (HSP) to strengthen WSH ownership and capabilities at the sectoral, company and individual levels. For example, we will require Chief Executives and Board Directors of all companies in higher-risk industries to attend a programme on how to meet their WSH responsibilities and develop their companies’ WSH capabilities.

6. WSH standards apply equally to the private and public sector. I would like to reassure Members of this House that the Ministry of Manpower is impartial in our dealings with both public agencies and private organisations, be it in terms of inspections or taking appropriate enforcement actions.