Forum: Leverage heightened health awareness to increase safety awareness too

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong said there were 28 workplace deaths in just nine months this year, compared with 30 in the whole of last year (Tuas plant blast sparks yet another call for safety time-out, Sep 26).

He has recommended that safe management officers be trained to become dedicated workplace safety and health (WSH) representatives.

The Ministry of Manpower mandated the appointment of safe management officers last year to help implement, coordinate and monitor the system of safe management measures at the workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a great idea given how the pandemic has galvanised the nation into heightened health awareness for both individuals and businesses. We should leverage this to heighten safety awareness at the workplace.

In particular, as WSH officer Han Wenqi observed in The Sunday Times' report, poor safety habits are usually the result of months or years of systemic lapses that are not addressed, as they may not have led to safety incidents.

The role of safe management officers could be expanded to make them the point of contact for workers to raise safety concerns, and to give them the authority to prevent workplace supervisors from overriding these concerns and to take immediate action when unsafe practices are flagged.

The Covid-19 health crisis is a wake-up call to rethink our measures to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.

Let us not allow a crisis to go to waste. We should leverage it to also rethink our measures to prevent safety lapses at the workplace.

Liu Fook Thim

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