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Safety is everyone’s responsibility

  • TODAY (7 December 2015): More should be done to prevent workplace deaths
  • TODAY (18 December 2015): Safety is everyone's responsibility

Safety is everyone’s responsibility
- TODAY, 18 December 2015 

  1. We share Mr Kwan Jin Yao’s concerns about the accidents caused by falls from heights, and slip, trips and falls (“More should be done to prevent workplace deaths”, 7 December 2015).
  2. MOM and the industry-led Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council take a four-prong approach to ensure safe workplaces in Singapore - enforcement, capability building, setting standards and engagement.
  3. MOM conducts more than 6000 worksite inspections annually with companies selected on a risk-based approach. Every accident is investigated and MOM will not hesitate to take action against errant companies. To increase deterrence, MOM has also reviewed and enhanced the Demerit Point System and Business Under Surveillance programme in July this year, and will continuously review our programmes to ensure effectiveness. The WSH Council also visits companies involved in fatal accidents to understand their WSH challenges and provide assistance to improve their safety performance. Lessons learned from past accidents and good practices are then shared with the industry through forums organised by the WSH Council.
  4. In addition, a wide range of guidance materials such as industry-specific guidelines, Code of Practices, Activity-based-Checklists and videos have been developed with the industry to educate workplaces on good practices and help them manage industry-specific WSH challenges. These resources are available free at www.wshc.sg.
  5. To strengthen industry capability and extend our outreach, MOM and WSH Council organises WSH clinics and workshops to help workers understand and manage WSH risks at their workplace. Nevertheless, we agree that more can be done and we will continue to explore new avenues to strengthen WSH capabilities in our companies.
  6. However, it is important to reiterate that safety is ultimately everyone’s responsibility. All stakeholders – employers, supervisors and workers – must take proactive ownership in WSH in order to effectively improve the safety of their workplace and colleagues. MOM and WSH Council will continue to work closely with the industry to raise WSH standards and foster safe work habits. We also urge the community to also take an active role in reporting unsafe work conditions to MOM at 6317 1111 or download the SNAP@MOM mobile app to take photographs of unsafe work practices and notify workplace occupiers to take action.

More should be done to prevent workplace deaths
- TODAY, 7 December 2015

There were 16 deaths at workplaces this year as of October, up from 10 in the whole of last year and the highest since 2012 (“Workplace fatalities rise this year as more workers fall from height”; Nov 27).

In response to the higher number, the causes of these incidents must be ascertained. Were there structural or systemic weaknesses, personal carelessness owing to distractions, or a combination of both? Details are scant. If structural or systemic factors are to blame, employers should shoulder greater responsibility. In fact, more punitive measures can be introduced to increase vigilance and stem the trend. Are incidents more likely within a particular industry, or even a company?

It is not about deaths per se. There have been 87 cases of major injuries from workplace falls, compared with 88 last year, and also a higher overall number of work-related fatalities and injuries.

It is disconcerting that the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s endeavours, such as clinics by the Manpower Ministry and even enforcement actions, have been less than adequate in this regard.

After the causes of these falls and deaths — which happened despite supposed safety improvements in the first half of the year — have been determined, the obvious next step is to assess the effectiveness of present undertakings.

Awareness projects such as the Falls Prevention Campaign sound good on paper, but lessons are not necessarily learnt. Do companies gain from the aforementioned clinics, are changes implemented thereafter and have the spot checks yielded substantive insights for the authorities?

More importantly, what do workers think? Surveys or focus group discussions can be arranged with those toiling at these workplaces, to aggregate their perceptions of how safe they feel and any red flags they may identify.

Such information is more useful than mere rhetoric about complacency and vigilance.
Last Updated: 22 December 2015