Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Singapore to cut workplace fatality rate to below 1 per 100,000 workers by 2028

Plan to halve workplace fatalities
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2017

Singapore aims to reduce workplace fatalities to less than one death per 100,000 workers in 10 years' time.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the new target yesterday, saying it can be achieved through the three-way partnership between the Government, employers and unions; as well as by encouraging companies to use technology to improve safety.

The current target of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 workers was set in 2008, and achieved in 2014, but the rate crept up to 1.9 in 2015 and last year.

Singapore saw five deaths per 100,000 workers back in 2004, Mr Lee noted at the official opening of the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work yesterday.

But a comprehensive series of measures, including a new Workplace Safety and Health Act introduced in 2006, helped bring down the rate to 1.9 last year, he said.

The new target will put Singapore on a par with countries such as the Netherlands, Britain, Sweden and Finland, which have workplace fatality rates of below one death per 100,000 workers. "We will have to work hard, but I am confident that we can achieve the new target," Mr Lee said.

Moving to workplace health, he added: "The prevalence of work-place illnesses and chronic conditions is itself a problem that should be addressed." He cited conditions like hearing loss and respiratory diseases, which "can be prevented with a little bit of effort".

But even as the Government continues to introduce new rules and incentives to nudge companies to make workplaces safer, Mr Lee made it plain that more regulation alone will not solve the problem.

Ultimately, companies should take a holistic approach to workplace safety and health. "It is impractical to add new regulations each time there is a workplace accident," he said. "Beyond a point, more rules will result in heavier burdens, but not greater safety."

$2 million government fund to tackle traffic fatalities at work
It will cover research into solutions that address key causes such as driver fatigue and blind spots
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2017

A $2 million government fund has been set up to pay for research into technologies that can help reduce the number of workers killed in traffic accidents.

The fund will cover research into solutions that address the main causes of fatal traffic accidents at work - vehicle blind spots, unsafe driving practices, and driver fatigue.

Companies and research institutions will receive up to 70 per cent funding to devise such solutions, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement yesterday.

Traffic accidents were the top cause of workplace fatalities between 2013 and last year, claiming 82 lives. More than half, or 57 per cent, of the accidents happened in worksites while the rest occurred on public roads.

The ministry is calling for proposals from today, for submission in November. The winning projects will be announced in March next year.

The fund is part of a broader plan announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday to encourage companies to make workplaces safer through technology.

"Technology can help to reduce human errors which cause workplace accidents," said Mr Lee.

He noted that some transport and logistics companies have already installed devices to monitor driving habits.

"If the driver is falling asleep, an alert will be triggered, the seat will vibrate and the driver hopefully will wake up," he said.

At his National Day Rally two weeks ago, the Prime Minister had outlined how Singapore's Smart Nation plan will create jobs and improve daily living.

Yesterday, he said using technology to improve workplace safety and health is part of the national plan to become a Smart Nation.

Besides promoting the use of technology to improve workplace safety and health, the MOM is also reaching out to smaller companies that may lack resources to roll out workplace safety programmes.

It will set up a Total Workplace Safety and Health Service Centre in Woodlands by the end of this month, to give advice to smaller firms and help them implement programmes to boost safety at work.

The pilot centre, which will run for two years, will help about 300 companies employing 3,000 workers in the Woodlands East Industrial Estate. It will provide free services like consultations and talks.

The 300 companies are mainly in the metal works, food manufacturing and construction sectors, the MOM said.

"If this approach works well, we will set up more of these centres in other industrial areas in Singapore," said Mr Lee at the official opening of the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work yesterday.

The congress was jointly opened by Mr Lee, International Labour Organisation (ILO) director-general Guy Ryder and International Social Security Association (ISSA) president Joachim Breuer.

In their speeches delivered before Mr Lee's, Mr Ryder and Dr Breuer spoke about the vision of reducing workplace fatalities and injuries to zero worldwide.

About 3,500 delegates from more than 100 countries are in Singapore until Wednesday for the congress, which is held every three years. It is the first time the congress is held in South-east Asia.

Besides meetings and workshops, the congress also has activities such as a safety and health exhibition, and a short film competition on preventing workplace deaths and injuries.

The competition has drawn eight Singapore entries - seven films and a multimedia presentation. Some are expected to win awards when the winners are announced today.

The Asean labour ministers also met to discuss workplace safety on the sidelines of the congress yesterday. They later issued a joint statement pledging their commitment to improve workplace safety for workers in the region.

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