Companies should treat seriously the safety time-outs that they have been urged to take since yesterday, following a spate of workplace fatalities across several sectors. There were 10 workplace fatalities last month, bringing the total number of workplace deaths this year to 20 - the highest number of fatalities for the same period since 2016. Admittedly, these numbers need to be kept in longer perspective. Singapore's workplace fatality rate more than halved from 2.3 per 100,000 workers in 2011, to 1.1 in 2021. This is close to world-class standards, with only four Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries achieving a fatality rate of fewer than one per 100,000 workers.
Even so, the 20 fatal cases so far this year is troubling. And also unacceptable, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rightly noted. What is of particular concern is that seven of them were similar to cases that occurred last year. Three cases involved forklifts, two involved falls from ladders, and two involved falls through fragile surfaces. According to preliminary investigations, a common factor among these fatalities was that basic safety and health control measures - such as the wearing of seat belts in forklifts or fall-protection gear while working at heights - were either inadequate or not in place at all. Lives would have been saved had these well-established control measures been taken.