New drive to curb injuries at work

A new pilot project will be launched this year to prevent people from slipping and tripping at work.

Risk-prone firms will be checked by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, and monitored for improvements over three months.

The council, which comes under the Manpower Ministry (MOM), will outsource this work to private contractors.

Companies expected to come under scrutiny include those in the logistics, retail and food and beverage sectors, where workers are more prone to falls.

Last year, a total of 171 workers suffered serious injuries such as fractures after they stumbled or fell at their workplaces, up from 157 in 2013.

For minor injuries, including bruises and sprains, the figures rose to 2,962, from 2,659.

About one in four of the 12,863 minor injuries at the workplace last year happened because of falls.

When contacted, the council confirmed its new programme, but declined to give details.

A letter to interested contractors two weeks ago, which The Sunday Times obtained, said that the scheme will "raise awareness and guide employers on management of slips, trips and falls at their workplaces".

Between May and August, private contractors will visit up to 200 workplaces, armed with "slip meters" which can measure how slippery surfaces are.

Risky spots will be identified and the firms will be taught how put up warning signs and apply anti-slip tapes or mats.

Weekly visits will follow and the firms will be monitored on how they fare over about three months.

It is unclear how much the pilot project costs or how the council will determine its success.

But it already has industry support, because many say employers are not doing enough to prevent such injuries.

Kitchen equipment supplier Sia Huat, for instance, said sales for slip-resistant shoes that it sells are slow, although some cost just $40 a pair.

Its manager, Mr Melvin Tan, said: "Most firms do not provide them to their workers as part of standard equipment."

Labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang noted that employees have a role to play, by making sure they use proper equipment, for instance.

The steps that workers can take include following safety rules, wearing safety gear and watching out for other workers, said Mr Yeo.

Mr Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, stressed that firms should not cut corners on workplace safety.

"Injuries do not just affect workers' well-being, but also their livelihood," he said.

"While targeted measures like such pilot projects are useful, the real test (for the WSH Council) is whether employers continue to exercise the safety measures after the pilot project ends."

This article was first published on April 12, 2015.
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