Awareness, more training and enforcement needed to ensure safety in workplaces

“As far as workplace safety and health is concerned, we have to continue ramping up our efforts in three areas: Raise awareness of workplace safety and health, provide more training to personnel involved in workplaces, and maintain high levels of enforcement,” asserted Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan during a media briefing.

Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

While referring to the collapse of a viaduct under construction along Upper Changi Road East which killed one worker and injured 10 others and the death of another worker after falling off the edge of a building at a Sembawang worksite, he observed that these incidents are ‘very timely reminders’ for taking workplace safety measures.

He was presenting the report of the Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health after a three-year term. The committee was formed in 2014 to push out workplace health and safety programmes at the national level.

The Minister informed that more than 300,000 workers, including 32,000 mature workers (aged 40 and above) from seven sectors — including retail, transport and logistics, food and beverage — have benefitted from customised health and safety programmes. These sectors make up 40 per cent of the total mature workforce in Singapore, the report indicated.

While explaining the rationale of targeting workers such as taxi drivers, bus drivers, cleaners, and security and retail employees, he said, “They were targeted because they are less likely to prioritise safety and health over finances and family.”

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health. Photo courtesy:

Health check-up programmes were organised for taxi and bus drivers. The committee also partnered 16 landlords to introduce healthier dishes in canteens and organise programmes such as exercise classes.

Addressing the media, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, said “Employers have to be supportive in terms of allowing employees to come onto the programmes, and providing the spaces and facilities. For example, in some of the bus interchanges, they’ve allowed us to use rest spaces for bus captains to organise talks, health coaching, and so on.”

The committee will reconvene later this year to serve another three years. Moving ahead, it will focus on high-risk industries such as the construction sector, increasing outreach to mature workers, and reaching out to small businesses that the Health Promotion Board engages through partners.