Companies' efforts on safety 'not good enough'

Manpower Minister Lim flagging off participants yesterday for a 3.5km walk, part of the launch of this year's National WSH Campaign. The WSH Council has a pilot programme to help over 350 SMEs in metalworking and manufacturing to improve workplace sa
Manpower Minister Lim flagging off participants yesterday for a 3.5km walk, part of the launch of this year's National WSH Campaign. The WSH Council has a pilot programme to help over 350 SMEs in metalworking and manufacturing to improve workplace safety. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

26 deaths at work in 4 months, with eight in past 3 weeks, 'alarming': Manpower minister

There have already been 26 workplace deaths in less than four months this year, prompting Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say to stress that existing safety efforts are "not good enough".

Speaking yesterday at a Workplace Safety Health (WSH) Council walk, he said this was eight more deaths than in the same period last year.

Eight of the 26 deaths occurred within the past three weeks alone, which Mr Lim called "alarming".

While the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stepped up inspection and enforcement, the threat of prosecution and penalties should not be the main reason for employers to push for better safety efforts, he said. Instead, they must want to do their best "because preventing all injuries is the right thing to do, and the responsible way of running their business", he added.

In the latest fatal accident on Saturday, a 36-year-old truck driver from India died when his parked vehicle rolled into him, crushing him against a wall at 56, Loyang Way, around 5am.

Said Mr Lim: "Every death is one too many because a death at work means the loss of a loved one at home." He cited the example of chemist Lim Siaw Chian, who died in a lab explosion at Leeden National Oxygen last October, leaving behind a six-month-old daughter, and the two SMRT staff killed by a train last month while undergoing on-the-job training.

He also outlined the challenges of workplace safety and health that lie ahead. These include the chronic diseases of an ageing population such as diabetes and hypertension, occupational diseases such as psychosocial stress, and the new risks of technology, such as robotics and automation in the workplace.

More than 1,000 people from 55 companies took part in the 3.5km walk yesterday at the Gardens by the Bay, part of the launch of this year's National WSH Campaign.

WSH Council chairman Heng Chiang Gnee said that since October, the council has conducted a pilot programme to help more than 350 small and medium-sized enterprises in metalworking and manufacturing to improve workplace safety.

Workplace health and safety officer Mohammad Hidayat Hamzah from construction firm Vigcon was among the walk's participants.

The 34-year-old said Vigcon has a penalty system for safety lapses, and bi-weekly meetings to plug safety gaps. The company has been free of incidents since a worker tripped and fractured his hand in 2014.

"We hope to work harder to keep it that way," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Companies' efforts on safety 'not good enough''. Print Edition | Subscribe