Plans to get tough with firms to boost workplace safety

Singapore has set itself the goal of having among the safest and healthiest workplaces in the world.

Rates of workplace deaths and major injuries for every company will be published online, to hit errant companies where it hurts.

Clients, such as property developers, and workers will be able to compare employers’ safety records on the portal, which is expected to be ready within the next two years.

The Straits Times understands that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will prioritise publishing the records in high-risk sectors such as construction and marine. MOM will also share data on work injury compensation claims with insurers so they can adjust premiums according to a firm’s safety record.

These proposals released yesterday by a group comprising government, employer and union representatives – which was tasked with coming up with 10-year strategies on workplace safety and health (WSH) practices – have been accepted by the Government.

The aim is to enhance the focus on workplace health, grow the use of technology and change the mindset of companies and workers.

“Some employers are still convinced that WSH is a cost… Employers need to know WSH is good for business,” said the committee’s chairman John Ng, who is vice-president of the Singapore National Employers Federation.

Currently, companies with workplace deaths are listed online. With the new portal, companies’ safety records can be compared side by side and data will be normalised by workforce size and industry.

The group also wants help for companies – especially smaller ones – to identify new technologies which can boost safety and health, and more occupational diseases that must be reported to MOM under the WSH Act.

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said the committee feels that besides safety, equal emphasis should be placed on health. “Chronic conditions like diabetes, for example, that are not well managed can also cause a worker to lose consciousness and therefore affect not just his safety, but also the safety of his co-workers,” he said.

Providing more injury claim data could lead to higher insurance premium costs for some companies.

However, Mr Karl Hamann, president of the General Insurance Association of Singapore and a tripartite committee member, said the goals to lower the fatality and major-injury rates by 30 per cent over the next 10 years will lower the number of injuries for which companies need to pool premiums, which should lower costs in the longer term.

Singapore aims to reduce its workplace fatality rate to less than one death per 100,000 workers before 2028, a target set by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2017. Last year, the three-year average rate was 1.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.

The committee also set a target to cut the workplace major-injury rate to below 12 per 100,000 workers.

In its dealings with companies, the labour movement will seek to institutionalise systems to report and learn from near-miss incidents.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong, a committee member, said workers should feel safe about pointing out unsafe practices and asking for work to stop for safety reviews.

The panel sought views from close to 3,000 people, including workers, experts and doctors.

Mr Alfred Lim, director of Goldfield Construction, a waterproofing works firm with 42 workers, said he has no issue with the move to publish safety records online. “For big tenders, safety records are already taken into account… That can also be done for smaller projects.”

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