Ensure workplace safety measures are properly implemented

After the collapse of Nicoll Highway in 2004, the Workplace Safety and Health Advisory Committee - now the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) - put in place several tools that aimed to prevent other similar incidents.

For instance, certain safety requirements were mandated and were made non-negotiable in contracts. A safety budget was also to be excluded from bid prices.

It is timely to review the implementation of such recommendations, especially for large infrastructure and civil projects (Workplace safety: The next frontier; Aug 10).

The need to educate all stakeholders on the current law is important.

Take the recent collapse of the viaduct in Upper Changi Road East, for example.

While the focus has been on the main contractor, we also need to examine the critical roles of other stakeholders, including the owner/developer and designers, whose duties and responsibilities are clearly spelt out in the Workplace Safety and Health (Design for Safety) Regulations, which came into force on Aug 1 last year.

The influence of insurers on safety is also weak in Singapore, possibly due to the business model and competitive nature of the industry. Premiums are priced to attract or retain a client, rather than based on its safety performance. This needs to change.

It is important to review how diligently and effectively each duty holder has discharged its duty, as well as to evaluate the adoption of the tools developed by the WSHC to measure safety performance proactively.

The formation of the WSHC has put in place a "systems thinking" and "lesson learnt" mindset. This mindset is critical in predicting and preventing complex accidents.

Often, high-profile accidents are met with knee-jerk reactions that lead to heavier penalties and more regulatory control, resulting in confusion in the industry.

We need to ensure the proper implementation of the tools already available to us before rushing to introduce more tools.

Goh Chye Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'Ensure workplace safety measures are properly implemented'. Print Edition | Subscribe