Communication, enforcement key to ensuring workplace safety

Since stiffer penalties were implemented last month for workplace safety lapses, there have been more workplace deaths, bringing the total number of known workplace-related deaths this year to 35 ("Foreign worker dies at worksite; suspect arrested"; June 10). This leaves much room for improvement.

First, communication could be a problem.

Effective communication between workers and site managers may be difficult, considering that the workforce includes people of many nationalities.

Is there any avenue for proper feedback to gauge workers' understanding of what transpired during safety briefings?

What a worker does not know about working safely may not only harm but also kill him and hurt the business.

Workers must be thoroughly and adequately trained in work-safety processes. The management owes its employees such training.

And that training must come from site supervisors, in addition to mandatory safety courses conducted by training providers whose quality must be unquestionable.

Second, the enforcement of safety practices is important.

Simply deducting workers' pay for not wearing or using protective equipment is not enough.

Mere exhortations by site managers to workers to comply with safety requirements do not absolve the site management of its legal obligations to protect workers.

Finally, an indirect contribution to an increase in the number of accidents may be traced to the safety-auditing process.

Auditors have been known to shorten the duration from the standard five days - three days of site auditing and two days of report writing - to two days, highlighting only the good practices and not the non-compliance issues.

In the course of my work, I have also found that some audits are superficial and cursory in nature.

The scope and depth of auditing leave much to be desired, and there is room for improvement.

Lim Boon Khoon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Communication, enforcement key to ensuring workplace safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe