Adopt new approach to vulnerable workers

I agree there is a need for greater transparency about the exact circumstances surrounding the deaths of workers at construction sites, and a greater willingness to publicly discuss safety lapses ("When non-slip shoes may have prevented workers' deaths"; June 2).

It is the basic responsibility of employers to provide construction workers with adequate protection. This includes safety helmets and proper footwear such as boots.

Construction workers have come from afar and they have helped with much of our nation's infrastructure.

Singaporeans need them, and it is only reasonable for their employers to take care of their basic needs and safety during their period in Singapore, so that they can subsequently return safely to their families.

If it is indeed true that lower-wage workers like construction workers and security guards are more vulnerable to workplace injuries and death, because employers value them less and have less regard for their safety, then this sad fact and flawed mindset need to change.

Greater publicity about the casualties can lead to greater public empathy, debate and understanding, and put greater pressure on companies to change their mindsets and practices, to prevent deaths.

With more critical questions, companies can be held more accountable for their workplace safety practices.

The suggestion to block construction companies from hiring new foreign workers until they fix their safety lapses could very well mitigate the problem.

To drive the safety message home to employers and workers, the Ministry of Manpower and non-governmental organisations should continue to enhance and improve the welfare of foreign workers.

Shanice Poh Xin Ping, 16,

Secondary 4 student

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Adopt new approach to vulnerable workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe