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Why It Matters

Take safety at work seriously

One death in the workplace is one too many.

This statement has been bandied about enough, but it still bears repeating each time a worker dies because of a workplace accident.

Last year, there were 66 such cases in Singapore.

The latest statistics from the Workplace Safety and Health Institute released on Tuesday are a sobering reminder that safety cannot be taken for granted. The workplace death rate here remains at 1.9 per 100,000 people employed, but Singapore hopes to bring it down to fewer than 1.8 deaths per 100,000 by next year. The numbers also show that workplace injuries have risen about 5 per cent, with almost 13,000 workers injured last year.

These rates of workplace injuries and deaths remain way too high. The fact that both industry and the Government say these accidents can be avoided with proper risk assessment and management should be a strong wake-up call.

This is not just an issue of safety and responsibility; there are also economic considerations that affect all parties - companies, workers and the country.

Deaths and injuries lower productivity and cost companies time and money. If workers are put out of action, firms lose valuable manpower while still having to pay them as they recuperate. For the worker, it could mean less income if the injury forces him to move to a low-paying job, or worse, leaves him unable to work. This would affect not just the worker, but also his entire family.

Consider also the psychological and emotional damage wrought on the worker by serious injuries such as losing a limb.

All this will affect the country's economy, by lowering productivity and output, and raising costs.

It is about time that companies and workers take this more seriously. Companies need to stop thinking of safety as an added cost, but a necessary component of a modern workplace. Workers, too, should not be afraid of pointing out safety lapses to their bosses. By working together, all parties can build a better and safer workplace.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Take safety at work seriously'. Print Edition | Subscribe