Singapore urges two-week “safety time out” as fatalities surge again

©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), supported by industry associations and unions, have called for a second “safety time out” lasting two weeks from today as a spate of workplace deaths threaten to reverse a decade of safety gains in the city state.

Already in 2022 there have been 20 workplace fatalities across sectors including construction, with 10 deaths in April alone. The year’s early tally is higher than in any since 2016, MOM said.

The causes were predictable and preventable with standard safety management, it added. Causes included forklift accidents, falls from ladders and falls through fragile surfaces. Investigations showed that basic safety measures were either inadequate or not in place at all.

MOM said the spate, arising as industry rushes to catch up from Covid lockdowns and amid worker scarcity, threatened to reverse gains made since 2011, since when Singapore saw its workplace fatality rate cut by more than half, from 2.3 per 100,000 workers to 1.1 in 2021, earning Singapore a place in the top four safest OECD countries.

Yesterday, MOM, the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSH), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and industry partners including the Singapore Contractors Association and the Association of Property and Facility Managers, called for the time out for the second time in a year. The first was in June 2021.

Time outs involve pausing work so management can engage workers and unions in reinforcing safety processes and to act on any issues raised.

“It is alarming and unfortunate that a number of this year’s fatal cases involved basic safety lapses,” said WSH Council chairman John Ng.

Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, Mr Silas Sng, said: “Performing work activities that are routine and repetitive does not guarantee that accidents will not happen. We need all employers and employees to take WSH seriously and personally, and to implement the WSH measures before an accident occurs in your workplace.”

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