No silver bullet to boosting workplace safety

More punitive measures and getting tough on management will not result in a successful safety culture, as the causes of accidents are multi-faceted, said the writer. Stakeholders must believe in and be committed to safety.
More punitive measures and getting tough on management will not result in a successful safety culture, as the causes of accidents are multi-faceted, said the writer. Stakeholders must believe in and be committed to safety.ST FILE PHOTO

The suggestions by Mr Lim Boon Khoon (Get tough on management when accidents happen; Feb 21) are thought-provoking but miss the mark.

As Singapore climbs up the value chain, work complexity increases in scope and depth. While complexity does not always cause accidents, it often is one of the leading indicators.

All accidents are preventable - thus, strong belief and commitment by all stakeholders is necessary to ensure that accidents do not happen, and when they do, that lessons are learnt and remedial measures taken.

The Ministry of Manpower enforces safety standards and holds operators and occupiers of workplaces accountable for all safety breaches and accidents.

When accidents happen, management, far from being let off the hook, usually has to take the lead in internal investigations, face affected families, deal with customers, answer to regulators, assure the entire workforce of the firm, report to the board of directors and calm shareholders.

It is not uncommon to find a safety department with a substantive head count in an organisation, helmed by highly qualified and knowledgeable safety practitioners who report directly to the managing director.

A successful safety culture and ecosystem does not rely on more punitive measures.

The causes of accidents are usually multi-faceted. There is no silver bullet. Getting tough on management is not the solution.

Wee Kwee Keng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'No silver bullet to boosting workplace safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe