Labour MP calls for further measures to curb rise in workplace deaths

SINGAPORE – A compulsory safety time-out for companies in high-risk industries and those that use heavy vehicles should be expanded to more sectors, said labour MP Melvin Yong.

He said the labour movement welcomes the mandatory safety time-out and other measures announced on Thursday to curb the rise in workplace deaths and injuries, but added that more should be done to prevent safety lapses.

The review of safety systems and processes conducted during the safety time-out should also involve all parties, from company management and workers, to unions, sub-contractors and suppliers, he said in a Facebook post.

Regardless of their safety records, these firms should engage an external auditor to conduct these safety audits as well, the National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general added.

He also called on companies to set up workplace safety committees with worker or union representatives, so as to track workplace safety and health (WSH) performance and implement relevant measures.

This includes setting up reporting channels and assuring workers that there will not be any reprisals for whistle-blowing.

Asked at a press briefing if his ministry was confident the new measures will be effective, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said the new steps are not just about enforcement, but also getting companies and workers to think about how to improve the safety culture here.

“It is not just about the stick but the carrots as well,” Mr Zaqy said.

He added that the six-month heightened safety period imposed by MOM until February next year is a time for companies to reflect on how they treat their workers and keep them safe.

Mr Zaqy said a change in work tempo post-Covid-19 is one possible reason for the recent spate of worker deaths, noting that the fatalities occurred in a range of different sectors and circumstances.

But the common factor has been that each of the them involved simple breaches of safety protocol.

“To some extent, maybe we lost some muscle memory,” he added.

“We are very sympathetic to businesses that are trying to adjust, trying to get new business. Some are having new workers coming in and rotating workers in and out. So we understand the ground shifts…

“This is ongoing, therefore everyone needs to adjust their timelines, pace and tempo,” Mr Zaqy said.