Tripartite committee proposes tougher measures for companies with poor workplace safety records

The new plans include a preliminary recommendation for government agencies to standardise their procurement criteria, used to track and disqualify errant contractors from public-sector projects. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - In its bid to provide workers here with one of the safest workplaces in the world, a tripartite committee has proposed ways to get tougher on firms that have a poor safety and health record.

A preliminary recommendation made by the Tripartite Strategy Committee - set up to boost workplace safety here over the next decade - is that government agencies can improve and standardise the procurement criteria used to track and disqualify contractors with poor safety records.

The committee also said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should facilitate having differentiated work injury insurance premiums for companies, setting apart those with good and poor track records by sharing past accident records and claims.

MOM should allow greater transparency on businesses' safety performances, so that other firms can be more discerning on who they procure services or products from, it said.

The suggestions were unveiled on Thursday (Aug 30) at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Conference 2018. The committee accepted feedback from an international advisory panel on the same day and is set to finalise its strategy by February next year.

Mr John Ng, who chairs the committee and heads the WSH Council, said: "In Singapore, we cannot continue to award tenders based solely on the lowest quote. Evaluation of contracts must take into consideration safety performance of the contractors, and this is important. I'm quite confident that companies will buy in to this over time."

Apart from tightening the environment to spur companies to do better, the committee also made proposals relating to workers' health.

Suggestions to get tougher on firms that have a poor safety and health record were unveiled at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference 2018 on Aug 30, 2018. PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

To help prevent illnesses caused by one's work environment, MOM should expand the list of such ailments that it recognises, and it should also support having health promotion initiatives at workplaces.

Apart from reviewing and expanding the list of 40 reportable occupational diseases, the committee proposed that companies should be supported in adopting health promotion initiatives at the workplace. This comes as the prevalence of chronic diseases is expected to rise due to sedentary work and an ageing population.

There were about 60 deaths a year on average in the past few years - as a result of heart attacks and strokes - possibly contributed to by strenuous activity at work, according to the MOM.

Firms should be encouraged to improve both the safety and health of workers rather than focusing on either, the committee proposed.

Finally, it made a third set of recommendations promoting the use of technology.

A centre should be set up to drive the adoption of advanced monitoring and management services, which can help to prevent accidents and increase productivity. Technology can also be used to improve training standards.

In the construction industry, for example, training can "transcend language barriers by using virtual reality to create an (immersive experience)", said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad at the end of the Singapore WSH Conference 2018 on Thursday.

"Singapore is renowned across the world for our safe streets and safe food... We should also be renowned for our safe workplaces," he added at the event in Suntec Singapore.

"This would give Singapore-based companies a competitive edge in securing business here or overseas, since workers will have a more conducive environment to be productive, and clients will have an assurance that projects will not be delayed by accidents," he added.

Mr Zaqy also said that over the next decade, there will be many shifts in Singapore's economy, demography and technology: "We must therefore be cognisant of how our workforce and workplaces will change over this period, and we must all plan accordingly."

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