26 workplace deaths this year show safety efforts not good enough: Lim Swee Say

Construction workers standing precariously on a single narrow platform at a construction site along Waterloo Street.
Construction workers standing precariously on a single narrow platform at a construction site along Waterloo Street. PHOTO: ST FILE
Vision Zero walk participants take part in a warm-up Zumba session before the event.
Vision Zero walk participants take part in a warm-up Zumba session before the event. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say takes a wefie with participants of the 3.5km walk at Gardens by the Bay East.
Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say takes a wefie with participants of the 3.5km walk at Gardens by the Bay East.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Mr Lim (extreme right) flags off the walk.
Mr Lim (extreme right) flags off the walk. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Participants start the walk.
Participants start the walk. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Participants take part in activities at stations that educate people about workplace safety and health before the start of the walk.
Participants take part in activities at stations that educate people about workplace safety and health before the start of the walk. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Existing efforts to reduce workplace fatalities are "not good enough", said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Sunday (April 17) morning.

Speaking to more than a thousand people at a Vision Zero walk in Gardens By The Bay to raise awareness of workplace safety and health, he said: "We are not even halfway through 2016, yet already 26 workers have lost their lives."

Eight of these deaths occurred within the past three weeks, one of them on Saturday (April 16).

"This is eight more than the same period last year, an increase of 40 per cent," he said.

"Are we doing our best today? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

 
 

"Every death is one too many because a death at work means the loss of a loved one at home," he went on.

He cited the example of chemist Lim Siaw Chian, who died in a lab explosion at Leeden National Oxygen last October and left behind a six-month-old daughter, as well as the two SMRT staff killed by a train last month while undergoing on-the-job training.

Mr Lim said that while the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has stepped up inspection and enforcement, the fear of prosecution and penalties should not be the main driving force towards a vision of zero fatalities.

"Employers must want to do their best not because of a fear of enforcement by MOM, but because preventing all injuries is the right thing to do, and the responsible way of running their business," he said.

He outlined the challenges of workplace safety and health that lie ahead: the chronic diseases of an ageing population such as diabetes and hypertension, occupational diseases such as psychosocial stress, and the new risks brought about by the adoption of new technology at the workplace.

The Vision Zero campaign by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, is meant to push companies and workers towards adopting a new mindset that all injuries and ill health can be prevented.