THE number of work-related deaths stood at 38 in the first nine months of this year. Yesterday, one more joined the list.
The death of the excavator driver buried by falling debris at the Asia Chambers building in McCallum Street cast a pall over yesterday's annual Workplace Safety & Health Awards ceremony.
The latest statistics have shown, encouragingly, a falling fatality rate. The 38 deaths in the first nine months of this year were 12 per cent lower than in the same period last year.
Yesterday's death showed how it remains urgent for the industry to keep up efforts to put safety first.
This push will gain momentum with the existing industry-led safety and health committee being given the status of a fully fledged executive council.
This will take effect in April next year, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen disclosed in his speech at the awards ceremony.
The new initiative marks a further shift towards a culture in which the industry takes the lead in worker safety.
The council will be given more staff and resources to enable it to set safety standards for the industry. It will also monitor the latest workplace-safety and health developments and help the different industry sectors respond to these.
Explaining the move to reporters later, DrNg said that overseas, the countries with the best safety records all have a 'very strong, very involved industry', where employers understand they have to put in the effort, and how to go about improving safety.
However, Dr Ng said, the formation of the council does not absolve or diminish his ministry's role as a regulator and enforcer of safety standards.
He added that the Ministry of Manpower will work closely with the advisory committee as it makes the transition to be a council.
The two-year-old committee, set up in the wake of a number of serious accidents, has witnessed some improvements in workplace safety: During its watch, the work-related fatality rate came down from 4.9 per 100,000 workers in 2004 to 3.1 last year.
It has mounted three pro-safety programmes: First, it launched an initiative in which large companies guided small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in raising health and safety levels. More than 150 SMEs have signed up, said committee chairman Lee Tzu Yang.
Second, the committee published a guide for directors and senior managers on dealing with workplace safety and health risks.
Third, the committee has acknowledged the important role played by safety professionals.
Three such professionals were among 108 award winners honoured with the inaugural Workplace Safety and Health Officer Awards yesterday.
At the ceremony held at the Grand Hyatt hotel, another new award, the Safety and Health Award Recognition for Projects, was also handed out.