Companies should report near misses to bring down industrial accident rate: Zaqy Mohamad

ST VIDEO: KEVIN LIM
Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad speaks during the launch of Safe Hands Campaign 2019 on Jan 10, 2019.
Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad speaks during the launch of Safe Hands Campaign 2019 on Jan 10, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad, under the guidance of a trainer, trying his hand at tightening a nut and tying a safety cable to prevent loosening on a training rig during the launch of Safe Hands Campaign 2019 o
Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad, under the guidance of a trainer, trying his hand at tightening a nut and tying a safety cable to prevent loosening on a training rig during the launch of Safe Hands Campaign 2019 on Jan 10, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Companies need to report near misses at the workplace and encourage workers to highlight hazards, in order to reduce the number of injuries resulting from industrial accidents.

Speaking at the launch of Safe Hands Campaign 2019 on Thursday (Jan 10), Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, Zaqy Mohamad, said such near-miss reports will plug gaps in existing safety procedures.

The campaign, an initiative by the Workplace Safety and Health Council, focuses on the prevention of machinery-related hand and finger injuries in the workplace.

He said for a near-miss reporting programme to be successful, a blame-free environment is critical.

"Workers should be encouraged to proactively flag out hazards without fear of reprisal," added Mr Zaqy.

Besides reporting near misses, he said companies should also enforce appropriate control measures.

These include machine guards to protect workers from pinch points and moving machine blades, and devices that shut off the electricity to potentially dangerous machines prior to repair and maintenance works.

While the number of hand and finger amputation cases in the workplace decreased from 140 in 2016 to 103 in 2018, Mr Zaqy said all of the injuries last year were preventable.

 
 
 

He added: "Inspections conducted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) last year revealed that all of the amputation injuries could have been prevented by measures such as conducting better risk assessments, installing machine guards, and providing lock-out and tag-out procedures during maintenance and repair."

A near-miss reporting regime introduced in 2012 saw Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL), a company which works on Rolls-Royce Trent aeroplane engines, reduce its accident rate by 65 per cent over the last three years.

Of the 1,342 employees at SAESL, 878 work with heavy machinery.

On Thursday, Mr Zaqy was given a tour of the company's facility in Loyang, where he was shown the equipment used to prevent machinery-related injuries.

Among other things, SAESL introduced safety cutters with ceramic blades, which are less hazardous than the ones with metal blades, and a braking system that allows machinery to stop within one or two revolutions in emergencies.

Mr Bill Wozniak, the company's chief executive, said: "At SAESL, we say that safety has no budget limit. If something needs to be done, we will make sure that it's funded and properly given."

This year's Safe Hands Campaign is focusing on the metalworking sector, which has more than 5,000 companies.

The sector accounts for one of the highest number of amputation injuries within the manufacturing industry.

There were 125 cases involving all forms of amputation injuries in 2017 across all industries and 143 the year before, MOM figures showed.