SINGAPORE - Singapore aims to reduce workplace fatalities to less than one death per 100,000 workers in 10 years' time.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the new target can be achieved by through the three-way partnership between the government, employers and unions; and encouraging companies to use technology to improve safety.
The current target of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 workers was set in 2008, and achieved in 2014. But the rate crept up to 1.9 in 2015 and last year.
Singapore saw 5 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2004, Mr Lee noted at the official opening of the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work on Sunday (Sept 3).
But a comprehensive series of measures, including a new Workplace Safety and Health Act introduced in 2006, helped bring down the rate to 1.9 last year, he said.
The new target will put Singapore on par with countries such as the Netherlands, UK, Sweden and Finland, which have workplace fatality rates of below one death per 100,000 workers, he added.
"We will have to work hard, but I am confident that we can achieve the new target," Mr Lee said.
The Government will continue to introduce new rules and incentives to nudge companies to make workplaces safer, but more regulation alone will not solve the problem, he said.
Ultimately, companies should take a holistic approach to workplace safety and health, he added.
Moving to workplace health, Mr Lee said: "The prevalence of workplace illnesses and chronic conditions is itself a problem that should be addressed."
He cited conditions like hearing loss and respiratory diseases, which "can be prevented with a little bit of effort".
While larger companies already have workplace safety programmes in place, smaller companies may find it difficult to do so, he noted.
The Manpower Ministry (MOM) will thus set up a Total Workplace Safety and Health Service Centre at Woodlands to give advice to smaller companies and support them in implementing workplace safety and health programmes.
The new centre will help about 300 companies employing 3,000 workers.
"If this approach works well, we will set up more of these centres in other industrial areas in Singapore," Mr Lee said.
In addition, the MOM will also fund research into safety technology.
It will launch a new workplace safety and health technology challenge to encourage companies to use technology to make workplaces safer.
Companies and research institutions will receive funding to devise new solutions, and the challenge will first focus on vehicular safety - currently the top cause of workplace fatalities, Mr Lee noted.
"Technology can help reduce human errors which cause workplace accidents," he said, adding: "Using technology to improve all aspects of our lives, including workplace safety and health, is part of our plans to become a Smart Nation."
In his National Day Rally two weeks ago, the Prime Minister had outlined how Singapore's Smart Nation plan will create jobs and improve daily living.
About 3,500 delegates from more than 100 countries are in Singapore until Wednesday (Sept 6) for the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, which is held every three years.