Labour MP concerned fatigue from Covid-19 measures hitting workplace safety, urges firms to review systems

Labour MP Melvin Yong (in red top) visited the Straits Construction Singapore site in Tampines on Dec 18, 2020. PHOTO: MELVIN YONG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Labour MP Melvin Yong wondered aloud on Friday (Dec 18) whether safety is taking a backseat as employers rush to complete work ahead of the year-end holiday period.

"Are companies trimming safety to remain competitive?" he asked in a Facebook post, in which he also wondered if fatigue from Covid-19 measures has led to lapses in safety processes recently.

Mr Yong, who is the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general, expressed his concern as Singapore prepares to enter phase three of its reopening.

"Singapore cannot afford to move backward on health and safety."

He urged employers to take time out of their regular operations to review and improve their company's safety and health procedures and systems and fix possible lapses.

Such safety time-out exercises are important for protecting the health and safety of workers, he said in his post after a visit to a construction site earlier in the day.

Mr Yong said the importance of such exercises has been brought into sharp focus recently, following the death of a 29-year-old Bangladeshi worker at a Land Transport Authority work site.

The worker was killed on Tuesday after part of a sheet pile fell on him.

He added that he visited the Straits Construction Singapore site in Tampines on Friday morning to better understand what it means for companies to conduct a safety time-out exercise.

"While Covid-19 has led to stoppage in terms of training for workers in the industry, Straits Construction has chosen to conduct onsite retraining and refresher courses for workers," he said.

"Its chief operating officer Mr Kenneth Loo shared that this is to ensure workers are kept up to date on proper work and safety processes, which is especially critical given the months of lockdown may have resulted in lost momentum and knowledge."

Mr Yong also said dedicated safety managers like Mr Don Wilson of Straits Construction "can make a real difference in achieving better health and safety outcomes at the workplace, which is inextricably linked to productivity at the workplace".

He added: "This is doubly important as employers balance the need to minimise the risk of widespread re-emergence of Covid-19 at the workplace with the need to minimise disruptions to business operations."

He also reminded employers that safety time-outs should not be a one-off exercise, and companies can contact NTUC if they need help in implementing such exercises.

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