The Straits Times says

Foreign workers' lives matter too

The Singapore Contractors Association brought forward its quarterly safety timeout following a spate of workplace fatalities at construction sites. The decision was taken after the latest death in a worksite-related incident. There have been seven fatalities this year, of which five were from the construction sector. Under the non-mandatory timeout, originally scheduled for next month, construction companies stop work and review how they carry out particular activities. Although the exercise usually lasts a few hours or fewer, it is a protocol that reminds firms of the need to take workers seriously by embedding features for their safety in the actual work process. The association's move is commendable.

It reflects an investment in the well-being of workers that is comparable in spirit to the concern demonstrated by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) when it recently called for a safety timeout. It decided to call a timeout after the death in January of operationally-ready national serviceman Aloysius Pang, who sustained serious injuries during an overseas military exercise. The message was that it could not be business as usual. The solution: A lowering of training tempo across all services, and giving commanders and troops the time and space to review systems and processes so as to focus on safety. The national angst caused by Corporal First Class (NS) Pang's death reflected a crucial fact of nationhood in a country where military or commensurate training is compulsory for males of a certain age. It amplified the fact that every serviceman is someone's father, son, brother, grandson, or partner. Hence, every training death unravels a web of family relationships that is nothing less than a microcosm of the Singapore whole.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Foreign workers' lives matter too'. Subscribe