Workplace safety must go beyond regulations

Singapore can be proud of the improvement in workplace safety since 2004 (Workplace safety: The next frontier; Aug 10).

This did not happen by accident but is the result of efforts by the Ministry of Manpower and Workplace Safety and Health Council.

The recent Pan-Island Expressway viaduct collapse has raised several questions, especially on the need to tighten regulations.

I believe that it is important to go beyond regulations if we want to improve work safety. We must also change work culture and behaviour.

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Changing culture is a long-term affair. For a start, it would be good to inculcate a “safe mindset” as part of primary education. If we can get children at a tender age to believe that all accidents are preventable, then they will grow up to change the world.

People in positions of power or influence must also adopt this mindset.

If we can get ministers, bureaucrats, business leaders and union leaders to take a few minutes every day to review safety requirements, it will send a strong message and get everyone to focus on safety.

Companies must understand that past incidents are not a measure of future performance.

It is important for business leaders to spend time understanding the risks, put in controls to prevent incidents and periodically review the risk of incidents happening.

This “critical risk thinking” will create an environment where injuries and fatalities are anticipated and prevented.

Regulations will help achieve change, but the right mindset will ensure that the change is permanent.

Srinivasan Ramabhadran

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