Multipronged approach needed to stem workplace deaths

The recent spate of workplace deaths in Singapore is certainly cause for concern ("Concern over rising workplace deaths"; May 25).

In the context of today's business and socio-economic environments, manpower crunch, and time and cost pressures are often key factors that compel many companies - in particular, construction firms - to subject their workers to long working hours and mental stress.

These unfavourable working conditions, in turn, tempt many workers and supervisors to sidestep safety procedures in order to complete their work faster.

The corollary of the vicious circle of stress and overwork is worksite accidents and fatalities.

A multipronged strategy is, hence, needed to ensure the safety of workers, as well as to create a conducive business environment for local companies.

First, productivity and safety are complementary, and, together, they can create a multiplier effect for companies to do more with less.

In this regard, the Government can play a pivotal role in bringing together various stakeholders - including companies, academia and experts from various industries - to explore ways and take concrete steps to boost productivity.

Such collaborative trials and studies provide companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, with the gumption to embrace new technologies and processes, with the necessary financial support from the Government.

Second, regulatory frameworks should be instituted to ensure all companies abide by safety rules and regulations when they tender for projects.

Hence, safety components should be integral to every tender's scope of requirements to level the playing field among bidders. These companies can then factor in additional costs to safeguard workers' safety and health, without fear of losing out to their competitors.

Third, outreach programmes and refresher training should be continually administered by the Workplace Safety and Health Council and industry associations to ensure that all stakeholders in companies - including senior management, supervisors and workers - are always kept up to date with the best safety practices in their respective fields.

Together with the collective will and determination from various stakeholders, a comprehensive and effective multipronged approach will help stem the rising number of workplace deaths.

Lim Ming Yen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Multipronged approach needed to stem workplace deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe