'Remove all risk of workplace accidents'

Since the start of the year, workplace accidents have resulted in 12 fatalities. There were 22 construction deaths between July and December last year, double the fatalities in the first half of the year.

SINGAPORE - Reducing the chance of workplace accidents is no longer enough, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

Companies must now try to eliminate risks altogether, he told some 800 business managers and professionals yesterday.

For instance, he said, companies dealing with hazardous chemicals for cleaning purposes typically rely on workers' use of personal protective equipment, such as goggles, gloves and respirators, to reduce the risks they are exposed to.

But replacing the hazardous chemical with a less toxic substance would eliminate both the risk as well as the need for complex procedures, training and over-reliance on supervision.

"You do really need to pay attention to the safety of people," he said in a speech at the bizSAFE Convention at Singapore Expo, organised by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council.

"You do not want to look the family in the eye to tell them that their fathers or mothers will not be coming back."

The changes are part of Risk Management 2.0, a revamped framework the Manpower Ministry (MOM) and WSH Council plan to roll out, with more details out later this year.

The framework aims to encourage companies to look at an individual worker's risk factors, such as health conditions, and not just workplace safety conditions.

It comes on the back of a spate of workplace accidents since the start of the year, which has resulted in 12 fatalities.

There were 22 construction deaths between July and December last year, which was double the fatalities in the first half of the year, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi said in Parliament on Monday last week.

To promote safety, MOM and the WSH Council will also launch a free alert service to notify firms of incidents and injuries reported by their sub-contractors.

The aim is to grow more role models, such as the 10 organisations that received awards yesterday for their commitment to the bizSAFE programme. More than 17,000 companies have joined the scheme since it started in 2007.

This includes Multibase Construction, which reduced its accident record to zero every year, for the past three years, despite increasing man-hours.

Said director Eric Teo: "Our good track record has given us better business opportunities... and we have gained the trust of our clients."

But beyond the economic dimension, said Mr Tan, workplace safety and health are "about people and their families".

"This is something that I will repeat again and again."

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