Forum: Grief support needed for workers after site deaths

Workers in a construction site in Kim Keat Avenue, on Nov 5, 2019.
Workers in a construction site in Kim Keat Avenue, on Nov 5, 2019. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The death of a 38-year-old Bangladeshi national is the fourth reported death of a worker in a work site incident last month alone. This is a worrying development (Worker struck by collapsing wall in ACS dies, Nov 28).

Over the past decade, the inspection and enforcement regime, combined with more stringent penalties and supported by public education and outreach efforts, has brought about improved outcomes. Today, basic workplace safety and health practices are widely adopted.

While the recent spike in work site deaths does not suggest any institutional neglect of safety and health, it is in the public interest that the Manpower Ministry reinforce and strengthen existing measures to prevent further workplace deaths.

The loss of someone triggers a complex series of raw emotions. Hence, workplace safety and health also entail enhancing capabilities and responses to grief and bereavement. The emotional, social and medical support for migrant workers following a co-worker's death warrants greater attention.

I hope the ministry will consider including grief and bereavement support and mental health issues as part of its workplace safety and health strategy.

In the larger context of an ageing society and an emphasis on greater caregiver support, it is time the ministry, together with the unions, relooked existing legislation and increased the amount of mandated compassionate leave to seven days.

It is important that government policies evolve as society changes. Grief responses and bereavement issues should rightfully be included in the planning of national policies.

Chen Jiaxi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2019, with the headline 'Grief support needed for workers after site deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe