Singapore has done well to bring down workplace fatality rates here over the years, with the average rate over a rolling three-year period falling to an all-time low of one death per 100,000 workers last year. This puts Singapore within striking distance of its 2028 aim to bring the fatality rate to below one per 100,000 workers, something only the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom have done on a sustained basis. Yet the recent spike in workplace-related deaths and major injuries, many involving experienced workers, raises questions about what else needs to be done, since these incidents do not seem to be attributable to the level of training or job experience.
Studies have shown that there is a tendency for accident rates to go up during times of economic recovery. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies have had to rush to clear the backlog of work and meet deadlines. Firms also had to work lean, as many foreign workers went home after the easing of restrictions that had kept them largely confined to their dorms. Yet the spate of deaths this year has shown that while a shortage of manpower and time are contributing factors, basic lapses and, perhaps, a tendency to cut corners mean there is room to instil a stronger safety culture here. Company management and supervisors need to view safety as integral to productivity instead of being at odds with each other.