Safety delay after recent wave of fatal work accidents, Singapore News & Top Stories

The Occupational Safety and Health Council (WSH) and six professional associations last week called for a safety break, after a recent wave of fatal work accidents.

Associations from the construction, marine, process engineering, manufacturing, transportation and logistics sectors have called on more than 10,700 of their members to take the time to review their security checks and working methods, among other measures.

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who spoke about it yesterday, said the recent spate of workplace fatalities was a “very alarming trend”.

The total number of work-related deaths this year is now 23. In the first half of last year, there were 16 workplace fatalities.

Meanwhile, some occupational safety and health courses will go live, said Zaqy, speaking at the bizSAFE annual convention.

This year’s convention, which was broadcast online, examined the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on various aspects from safety and health to mental well-being, and explored how the workforce work may face future uncertainties.

The loss of nine lives in workplace accidents since last month has been “most disappointing,” Zaqy said. “The most worrying and worrying aspect is that many of these were caused by very basic security breaches that could have been avoided.”

These include workers who enter a confined space without first performing a gas check, who enter the water without a life jacket, and who work at heights without securing themselves safely.

In his speech, Zaqy said compulsory courses, such as safety orientation courses, help workers understand the importance of safety.

Some courses will be moved online to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 at training sites, he added. Initially, this will be done for WSH worker level courses, before including supervisor and management level courses.

However, for some of the courses based on equipment or machines, it will be necessary to retain the practical training “in order to maintain realism and ensure the competence of the operators,” Zaqy said.

From August 1, employers will have the option to enroll their workers in the online safety orientation training and assessment course, for existing workers undergoing recertification. More details on online options for other WSH courses will be shared later.

Besides training workers, Zaqy said, business management should also do their part by implementing strong risk management systems.

He also spoke of support for the mental well-being of workers, which has been strained during the pandemic. Many suffer from anxiety and stress due to financial uncertainty, social isolation, and blurring of the lines between work and personal life.

Employers can play a role in helping staff cope better, creating a supportive workplace where workers know “it’s okay to disagree,” he said.

An industry-led working group is updating the risk management code of practice to offer guidance on how to mitigate risks associated with epidemics and mental well-being. The updated code should be ready later this year.

Encouraging employers and their workers to harness the resources available, Mr Zaqy said, “When we think about the damage caused by accidents or health problems, and the disruptions associated with work and productivity, we can all agree that time spent improving risk management is time well spent. “

In a statement on the growing number of fatal accidents at work, Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Congress Melvin Yong said yesterday that field visits revealed that some construction sites may be under manpower, “workers who have to perform unknown tasks, which they cannot be adequately trained to do”.

NTUC will work with affiliated unions to push for safety downtime on all high-risk job sites, where site practices and risk assessments can be reviewed, he added.

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