Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Manpower

More checks, stiffer penalties to curb rise in workplace deaths

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan speaking to workers at a condominium construction site on Match 17, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

More safety checks will be carried out at workplaces and harsher penalties imposed on errant employers to curb the rising number of on-the-job deaths.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also be stepping up efforts to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve on workplace safety, and to raise awareness on the dangers of unsafe workplaces.

These measures were announced by Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan in Parliament yesterday during the debate on MOM's spending plans.

This follows a spate of workplace deaths since the start of the year - 22 people have died so far. In the same period last year, 18 people died.The workplace fatality rate last year, at 1.9 per 100,000 employed persons, was up from 1.8 in 2014.

Expressing concern about these rising numbers, Mr Tan said: "Every fatality is one too many."

He added that the MOM will focus its efforts on work-at-height, traffic, and crane accidents. These have contributed most to the fatality rate.

He promised to increase the number of checks on workplaces, saying that around 16,000 inspections are carried out each year for now. The MOM will also be "taking tougher actions against recalcitrant employers", said Mr Tan, noting that workplace safety "needs to be driven from the top".

He urged companies to incorporate safety measures when they are designing worksites so as to prevent and reduce workplace accidents and deaths.

Programmes to help SMEs build safer workplaces will be launched later this year. "For those who need help to improve, we will assist them," said Mr Tan.

He added that the MOM has planned public education and media publicity programmes to highlight the growing workplace safety problem. It also intends to ramp up training and education for employers and employees. But if things do not improve, he said, the ministry will impose harsher penalties.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline More checks, stiffer penalties to curb rise in workplace deaths. Subscribe