SINGAPORE: Despite a decline in work activities due to the "circuit breaker" imposed to fight COVID-19, there were more fatal workplace accidents so far this year than in the same period last year, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Monday (Apr 27).
There were 14 fatalities recorded from Jan 1 to Apr 17 this year compared to nine within that period in 2019.
The figure came amid a circuit breaker period lasting until Jun 1, in which non-essential workplaces were closed and most workers, including essential workers, operated from home wherever possible.
Speaking at the virtual opening of the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign, Mr Zaqy said this “worrying trend” reinforced the need for employers and workers to press on with efforts to improve workplace safety and health, even during this difficult time.
Employers can do this in various ways, including focusing on workers’ health and not just their safety, he said.
“We have witnessed how the formation of a COVID-19 cluster at a workplace can cripple a company’s operations overnight! This can be a painful and sombre lesson for the employers on how the wellbeing of their workers can significantly impact their business operations.”
Employers and workers were also urged to maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying hydrated, resting sufficiently and exercising regularly.
“Workers with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension should also pay heed to doctors’ advice on how to manage the illnesses,” he said.
A “deepening of WSH ownership”, which is premised on a culture of care, trust and prevention is also key.
“This pandemic highlighted more vividly the need for employers and employees alike to stay united, show mutual care and trust that each of us will play our part to fight this virus.”
Mr Zaqy also urged companies to use this “lull period” to review and improve their workplace safety and health processes, such as by acquiring new skills through training.
Companies should also press on with transformation efforts by exploring and tapping on technologies to improve workplace safety and health performance.
“We are already operating in a new norm where technology is necessary for daily business operations. When this crisis is over, companies who embrace technologies will recover faster than those that did not.”
In view of the COVID-19 situation, Mr Zaqy said the WSH Council, Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation had decided to hold the campaign virtually.
“Our campaign goal is the same as our fight against COVID-19 – to take time to take care of our safety and health, so as to protect our workers, our loved ones and ourselves from harm,” he said.
Despite the outbreak and its "devastating impact', Mr Zaqy pointed out there was a "silver lining".
"The crisis has catalysed efforts to entrench our three WSH 2028 strategies of health, ownership and technology as part of business operations and sustainability," he said.
“Together, we can overcome this challenging period and create safer and healthier workplaces, even while working from home,” he added.