SINGAPORE - About 2,400 to 3,800 reports of unsafe work activities were made to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) each year over the past five years, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday (July 4).
In a written parliamentary reply, he said MOM takes every report seriously and inspects workplaces when necessary.
Of the inspections conducted in the past year as a result of these reports, 84 per cent led to enforcement action such as fines and stop work orders.
Between January and June this year, more than 3,500 inspections were conducted in higher-risk sectors such as construction, marine and manufacturing - 35 per cent more than in the same period last year.
Enforcement action was taken for more than 9,000 safety breaches, and more than 50 stop work orders were issued, a twofold increase compared with the first half of 2021.
Dr Tan was responding to Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Workers' Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC), who had asked for this data following the deaths of 28 workers in the first half of this year, the most over the same period since 2016.
The latest involved a 54-year-old GrabFood delivery rider, who died after a traffic accident near Waterway Point in Punggol on June 24.
"MOM will continue to step up its inspections at work sites and impose harsher penalties on companies with poor workplace safety and health performance," Dr Tan said, citing the stiffer penalties introduced last month (June) that will double the composition fine meted out to errant firms.
Meanwhile, all workers, including migrant workers, are strongly encouraged to report unsafe work conditions to their supervisors, employers or MOM, Dr Tan added.
Workers can also approach union leaders or non-governmental organisations, such as the National Trades Union Congress-backed Migrant Workers' Centre, which will work directly with employers to make changes or ask MOM to follow up.
Dr Tan gave the assurance that workers' identities will be kept confidential.
MOM will act against employers who fire, or threaten to fire, whistle-blowers, if they are reported to have done so.
Dr Tan also reiterated the various measures his ministry plans to implement following the recent spate of deaths, such as reviewing the current demerit points system and standardising the disqualification criteria used for public construction tenders.
He said MOM has also been working with government procurement entities to include suitable workplace safety and health (WSH) technology as part of the specifications for some public sector construction tenders.
"I encourage the private sector and members of the public to also shape your procurement policies to hire firms with strong safety track records by checking firms' WSH performance on CheckSafe on MOM's website," Dr Tan added.
MOM and the WSH Council will also do more to engage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to build up their WSH capabilities, he said.
Of the 28 deaths so far this year, 80 per cent occurred in higher-risk industries, including 10 in construction and five in the transport and storage sector.
A majority of the accidents involved SMEs, and most were due to preventable safety lapses, Dr Tan said in response to questions from Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas).
Falls from heights and vehicular accidents accounted for 14 of the 28 deaths.
While firms here have suggested that an exodus of experienced workers and an influx of greenhorns may be one reason behind the recent workplace fatalities, Dr Tan said inexperience was unlikely to be a contributory factor.
All 28 fatal accidents so far this year involved workers with at least two years of experience, he said, and any co-workers involved had at least three years of experience.
Noting how, at the end of last year, Singapore had been on track to meet its 2028 goal of reducing the workplace fatality rate to below one per 100,000 workers, Dr Tan said MOM is committed to strengthening the current WSH framework to make company management and boards more accountable.
There were 37 workplace deaths in 2021, compared with 30 in 2020 and 39 in 2019.
MOM is also committed to enhancing training support and tightening enforcement, Dr Tan added.
"I urge all companies to take time to review your WSH processes, use... the learning points from recent fatalities to reinforce the importance of safety to your workers, and implement the necessary control measures."