12,000 firms to impose safety timeout following recent spate of fatal accidents

A substantial proportion of companies on timeout are in manufacturing and construction. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The national initiative to get companies to impose a safety timeout to review workplace safety and health (WSH) systems and processes now involves 12,000 companies.

The timeout, which started on Monday (May 9) and is expected to last two weeks, was called by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), WSH Council, National Trades Union Congress and industry partners last Sunday.

It came after 10 workplace fatalities were recorded last month, bringing the total number of workplace deaths to date this year to 20 – the highest number of fatalities for the same period since 2016.

WSH Council general manager Christopher Koh disclosed the updated figures while observing a safety timeout by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) at the future Jurong Region Line interchange station at Boon Lay MRT station on Thursday (May 12). Also present were officials from the Singapore Contractors Association.

Mr Koh noted that a substantial proportion of companies on timeout are in manufacturing and construction, accounting for around 5,000 and 3,000, respectively, of the companies called to hold a safety timeout.

He said that, although the frequency of fatal accidents was worrying, "the repeat of similar circumstances is even more worrying".

He pointed out: "Seven were 'repeat' cases, with similar accidents in the past year or so."

He said those cases largely involved falls and machinery, including three cases of falls through openings or false ceiling boards, two falls from ladders and two involving unsafe forklift use.

He added that lives can be saved if companies learn from past accidents.

"(The accidents) would have been easily prevented if standard safety procedures were followed: Wear fall protection gear while working at height and use vehicles in the proper way."

This means wearing seatbelts, engaging the handbrake when the vehicle is stopped and not hanging loads from the forks of forklifts, he added.

Mr Koh praised CCCC for its safety timeout, saying that companies should follow its lead.

He called on those in management to visit worksites to review their companies' WSH systems and procedures, and remind workers of the importance of following them.

CCCC's timeout on Thursday covered ladder safety, traffic management and safety while using machinery such as cranes.

"The WSH Council will continue to support companies to adopt good WSH practices through various initiatives and engagement in the upcoming months," the council said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Koh said the council will help firms not yet on board to make the WSH journey as seamless as possible. Besides encouraging them to impose a safety timeout, the council has guidelines posted online and offers free consultancy programmes.

It also has a few events lined up to share good practices, including an online safety timeout forum to be held on May 19, as well as industry-specific webinars in the coming weeks to highlight safety risks in the facilities management, food and beverage, and logistics and transportation industries, and how to prevent them.

Said Mr Koh: "We are here to help. Once a company wants to be safe, we can show it how to do so with information, resources, guidelines (and) training schemes."

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