Safety council urges urgent review in view of a spike in workplace deaths

Construction workers building a scaffold against the backdrop of the Central Business District.
Construction workers building a scaffold against the backdrop of the Central Business District. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council has urged companies here to review their WSH procedures and take immediate action to ensure that safety measures are in place.

The call follows a rise in workplace deaths in the first three months of 2016. A total of 22 workers lost their lives from Jan 1 to April 2 this year, compared with 18 in the same period last year.

Most of the deaths were in the construction sector, with 10 deaths, while there were seven in other industries, and five in the marine sector.

In a statement on Monday (April 4), the council reminded stakeholders to remain vigilant and build the safety competency of employees by sending them for relevant WSH training.

Top management and supervisors were also advised to communicate with their workers on WSH matters regularly to reinforce the mentality that everyone plays a part in workplace safety.

The council will work with the Singapore Contractors Association and the Association of Singapore Marine Industries to rally their members to conduct a Safety Time Out (STO) this month (April 2016).

Companies will conduct a comprehensive review of all work activities during the STO, remind workers about the importance of safety procedures, inspect equipment and send employees for refresher safety courses if necessary.

WSH Council chairman Mr Heng Chiang Gnee emphasised that the 22 deaths could have been prevented if risk assessments had been conducted effectively and necessary safety measures implemented.

The deaths include those of two SMRT workers who died while attending on-the-job training near the Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22. The latest workplace death happened just two days ago on April 2, when a worker fell through a floor opening with a forklift. He was replacing the battery of the forklift when it suddenly surged backwards, taking him with it.

The WSH Council has various resources such as guidelines and checklists to help companies conduct risk assessments and implement good WSH practices. These resources can be found at www.wshc.sg/resources.

Reflecting on the 22 deaths so far this year, Mr Heng said: "These accidents could have been prevented...we must remain committed in our efforts to pursue good safety practices at work."

"Therefore, we encourage all industry players to rally their members and all stakeholders to take some time off to review their existing work practices and ensure that operations are performed safely without compromises."