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Singapore aiming to come out tops for workplace safety and health

SINGAPORE — Singapore has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top countries with the safest and healthiest workplaces by 2028.

The Manpower Ministry has set a goal of reducing the workplace fatal injury rate from a three-year average of 1.4 per 100,000 workers to below one for every 100,000 workers within the next 10 years.

The Manpower Ministry has set a goal of reducing the workplace fatal injury rate from a three-year average of 1.4 per 100,000 workers to below one for every 100,000 workers within the next 10 years.

SINGAPORE — Singapore has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top countries with the safest and healthiest workplaces by 2028.  

The target is to reduce the workplace fatal injury rate from a three-year average of 1.4 per 100,000 workers to below one for every 100,000 workers within the next 10 years, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Only four other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have achieved the target of below one death per 100,000 workers. They are the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Singapore is now ranked seventh, behind Greece and Denmark.

To achieve this goal, MOM will publish companies’ major injury and fatality rates within the next two years in a bid to encourage them to take ownership of safety practices within their firms and to increase transparency to help service-buyers make more informed decisions.

While it is mandatory for employers to report workplace accidents, dangerous occurrences and occupational diseases to MOM under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act, the ministry does not publish records of the firms’ injury rates on its website now.

The new move was one of the recommended strategies in a report released on Friday (April 5) by the WSH 2028 tripartite strategies committee, which was tasked to come up with action plans to help Singapore become a global leader in workplace safety standards.  

The Government accepted the committee’s report on Wednesday.

KEY GOALS

The WSH 2028 committee also laid out other goals in its report:

  • Reduce major injury rate by 30 per cent, from the three-year average of 17.2 per 100,000 workers to below 12 by 2028. Major injuries refer to severe non-fatal injuries, which include amputation, blindness, deafness and fractures.

  • Get firms to minimise hazards that lead to occupational diseases, with the aim of getting 75 per cent of workplaces to adopt noise and chemical risk controls, for example, by ensuring that workers are equipped with protective equipment, or isolated from noise and chemical hazards.

  • It also aims for 50 per cent of all employees to have access to employer-initiated health promotional activities such as health screenings and workplace exercise programmes.

  • To instil a culture where more companies adopt progressive workplace safety practices, such as having workers report near-misses and unsafe conditions, and for companies to actively identify potential risks and investigate incidents so that root causes of accidents are addressed. While the committee acknowledged that it will be hard to measure this culture, it will look at a company’s practices, for example, to see if it has systems in place to report near-misses and stop-work policies.

HOW TO ACHIEVE TARGETS

One recommended strategy that was accepted is to share data on work injury compensation claims with the insurance industry, so that premiums can be differentiated according to the WSH performance of a firm.

The MOM also hopes to expand the list of occupational diseases in the WSH Act by the end of this year, to add occupational lung cancers with causative links from exposure to agents such as asbestos, silica dust and arsenic.

There are now 40 types of occupational diseases under the WSH Act.

Lastly, the committee also recommended that companies adopt technologies to solve WSH problems. These will include using wearables that track the heart rate of a worker and installing sensors to monitor air and noise pollution in workplaces.

WHY IT MATTERS

While the number of workplace deaths fell to a record low last year, there was an increasing number of major injuries and illnesses at workplaces.

In 2018, 41 people died after getting injured at work — one lower than the previous year. The construction sector had the highest number of deaths at 14, followed by the wholesale trade sector (five), transportation and storage (four).

The overall number of workplace injuries rose by about 2.5 per cent from 12,498 cases in 2017 to 12,810 last year.

While the number of occupational diseases went down by 30 per cent last year compared with the year before, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, noise-induced deafness and occupational skin diseases have remained the top three occupational diseases since 2016.

The MOM said that it would continue to focus on prevention efforts in these areas.

The committee also prioritised workers’ health when setting out its recommendations, as there have been more workplace accidents linked to dizziness or loss of consciousness that stem from poorly managed chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower, said on Friday: “While it’s natural for us to focus on safety, moving forward, we think that health will play an equally important role.

"Their well-being can also affect safety. Chronic conditions like diabetes that are not well managed will also cause a worker to lose consciousness and will affect not just his safety but also the safety of his co-workers.” 

In the first three months of this year alone, there were seven workplace fatalities, of which five were from the construction sector.

This prompted the Singapore Contractors Association to bring forward its safety timeout a month earlier in March. It allows companies to take time off from their routine operations to review a particular work activity or system to ensure safe operations.

Related topics

Ministry of Manpower workplace safety Workplace Safety and Health Act WSH 2028 OECD

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