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Make senior staff more accountable for safety

Casual compliance, cost cutting, poor hazard recognition and lack of ownership are common themes that keep recurring in investigations in the aftermath of a safety incident ("Workplace safety: Can we do more?"; last Sunday).

Can we do more to make the safety message stick?

Singapore has a strong safety regulatory framework and we have programmes such as BizSafe to encourage companies to establish a good workplace safety and health management system.

However, the requirements could be more prescriptive, and more accountability can be put on the senior-most leadership team.

The authorities can dictate a compulsory safety budget, the level of which is based on the size of the company or project, and mandate that leaders attend safety walks, audits and safety meetings or even host safety talks for the workers.

Mindful leadership is a key way to cascade a change in the safety mindset in the organisation. It has to start at the very top.

We do not want safety incidents to be covered up. But we need to have sufficient deterrents against irresponsible leaders.

There is a need to strike a balance between incentivising the company to embrace safety practices and punishing errant companies.

We do not want safety incidents to be covered up. But we need to have sufficient deterrents against irresponsible leaders.

As a nation, we also need to change our safety culture and mindset.

We often see at-risk behaviour, such as people glued to their mobile phones while they are walking, jaywalking and reckless driving on the roads.

We need to reset our risk tolerance and recognise at-risk behaviour.

We can start "safety activities" daily, regardless of our industries, for example, by taking a moment at the start of a meeting to remind co-workers of the importance of safety, stopping our children from using mobile phones while they are walking, or running a road safety campaign in schools.

Starting from small, maybe insignificant, safety activities, we can help to create a culture of safety and thereby prevent more serious incidents from happening.

Ng Tze Yik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Make senior staff more accountable for safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe