PM Lee Hsien Loong: Recent spate of workplace deaths 'not acceptable'

·2 min read
A warehouse technician using a forklift in Singapore.
A warehouse technician using a forklift in Singapore. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the recent spate of workplace deaths are "not acceptable", and urged companies to take workplace safety seriously.

In a post on his Facebook page on Monday, PM Lee said that since the start of the year, 20 people have died at work in accidents of one kind or another. In April alone, there were 10 such deaths reported.

"This is far too many, and not acceptable," he wrote.

"We have been working hard for years to prevent workplace accidents, especially deaths. We have made good progress. But with our economy reopening and activities ramping up, safety standards and practices seem to have slipped. Accident rates have gone up, and we have lost ground.

"We must put this right. I call on everyone involved – employers, supervisors, and workers – to take safety at the workplace seriously. Lives are at stake."

Safety Time-Out to reinforce Workplace Safety and Health processes

A joint statement on Sunday by the Ministry of Manpower, Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, NTUC and industry associations called on companies to conduct a two-week Safety Time-Out (STO), starting from Monday.

An STO typically involves taking a pause in work for senior management to engage workers and unions in reinforcing WSH processes, and to act on any issues raised. It also urges senior management to ensure that learning points from past accidents are shared with all workers.

This STO will have two main focus areas: working safely at heights, such as working safely on fragile surfaces and safe use of ladders, and safe use of equipment such as forklifts.

"Of the 20 fatal cases in 2022 so far, it is very concerning that seven of them were similar in nature to cases that occurred in 2021: three cases involved forklifts, two involved falls from ladders, two involved falls through fragile surfaces," the joint statement said.

"Preliminary investigations revealed that a common factor among these fatalities was that basic safety and health control measures – such as wearing of seat belts in forklifts, or fall protection gear while working at heights – were either inadequate or not in place at all. Lives would have been saved if these well-established control measures were taken."

The WSH Council will be organising an online STO Forum, which will be broadcast on its Facebook page in end-May. It will feature a sharing on the recent cases and learning points, as well as presentations by industry experts from various industries who will focus on topics such as safe use of forklifts, safe use of ladders, working around fragile surfaces, and safe boarding of vessels.

The last time the council called for a nation-wide STO was on 25 June 2021, which also lasted two weeks.

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