Adopt a risk mindset to create safe workspaces

Workers at a construction site in Singapore's central business district.
Workers at a construction site in Singapore's central business district.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

I would like to commend The Straits Times for highlighting the importance of workplace safety (Taking workplace safety personally; March 16).

Vision Zero - the mindset that in which all injuries and illnesses are viewed as preventable - cannot be achieved without the active involvement of all parties, including leaders, managers, supervisors, unions, employees and contractors.

Every individual must understand and play their role, and blatant violations of safety rules cannot and should not be ignored.

Incident investigations generally reveal that fatalities or serious incidents happen because a particular individual blatantly violated a safety rule. It is also likely that was not the first time the rule was violated.

Does this mean that we are punishing people when they violate rules or when their violation results in someone getting injured or killed?

This is where the role of management and leadership becomes critical to ensure that rules are adhered to and enforced consistently, irrespective of whether someone is injured.

In many organisations, rules are enforced without the employees understanding the risks of violating them. It is important for employees to understand the rationale behind the rules set in place as this will result in better compliance.

We all need to understand that there are risks all around us.

Risks cannot be totally eliminated.

However, we can still achieve zero accidents and injuries if we manage the risks effectively through a series of safeguards and control measures.

If we are able to articulate that an employee is being "punished" for putting themselves at risk rather than for violating a rule, we can create a positive and safe work culture.

Srinivasan Ramabhadran