Workplace safety should be explored thoroughly

Given the rising number of workplace deaths, it may be time for stakeholders in higher-risk sectors to look at workplace safety and health issues from different perspectives ("Concern over rising workplace deaths"; May 25).

Human errors have frequently been quoted as a key cause of these serious injuries.

Human error could occur because of omission, when the person did not do what was needed to be done. It could also be due to commission, where he carried out the wrong procedure or did something that contravened the accepted or established norm.

This person should not bear all the blame.

His working environment could be a major contributor to his errors. The causes of his errors that lead to serious injuries can be examined from accident causation models.

Our construction industry is a complex system, comprising multiple layers of subcontracting, with each layer facing numerous challenges.

Human errors could result from these pressures. Therefore, the commonly adopted linear or sequential modelling in accident causation would not be ideal. The stakeholders may want to explore other higher orders of modelling, such as the epidemiological or systemic approaches.

In epidemiological accident causation models, human and technical performance deviations are identified. Latent conditions, such as organisational decisions, design deficiencies, or degradation of system functions that could result in the onset of an accident, will be monitored and rectified.

Systemic models look at how decisions made remotely higher up in the hierarchy of a complex system, as in many of our industry sectors, can affect those on the front end of an operation.

It systematically examines how decisions made by different people can severely affect those at the forefront of danger.

These models could also further complement current initiatives, such as Vision Zero, Total Workplace Safety and Health (WSH), and WSH Leadership programmes of the WSH Council.

I hope that regulators, industry players and representatives of the workforce will work together to explore more effective management of safety and health risks in our workplaces.

Samuel Lim Yoke Eng (Dr)