Heightened safety period extended amid rise in workplace accidents; higher penalties for breaches
SINGAPORE: The heightened safety period imposed on companies in higher-risk industries will be extended by three months from Mar 1 until the end of May, with additional measures such as higher penalties for workplace safety breaches.
Announcing this on Friday (Feb 10), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) noted that the heightened safety period was introduced in September 2022 for six months to address the "concerning rise" in workplace fatalities.
Since the start of 2023, there have been four workplace fatalities. The latest incident reported was a worker who died earlier in February after several glass doors toppled onto him.
"Based on past trends, periods post-Chinese New Year have had higher workplace injury numbers as companies rush to compensate for workdays lost," said MOM.
"Heightened alert and vigilance need to be maintained."
During the heightened safety period, companies are required to conduct a safety time-out to review risk assessments and improve site safety.
This applies to all companies in construction, manufacturing, transportation and storage, the marine and process industries, as well as those in other sectors that use heavy or industrial vehicles.
The ministry will put in place additional measures during the extended period.
For instance, the maximum fine for breaches of workplace safety and health (WSH) rules that could result in death or serious injury will be raised from S$20,000 to S$50,000.
For companies found to have WSH lapses following a serious or fatal workplace accident, the CEO or board director must attend a half-day training course in person.
"We will continue to require company leaders to personally account to MOM and take responsibility for WSH rectifications," said MOM in a media release.
This is on top of the current requirements where companies may be barred from employing new foreign workers for up to three months.
The WSH Council will launch a national campaign in April to encourage workers and members of the public to report unsafe practices at workplaces.
"Workers are encouraged to first report WSH concerns to their supervisors and companies for expedient resolution, before raising it to the authorities if no action is taken," said the ministry.
"Bite-sized" versions of the WSH guidance materials will also be introduced.
MOM said the annualised workplace fatality rate for every 100,000 workers improved during the heightened safety period, falling from 1.5 from January to August 2022, to 0.8 for the last four months of the year.
However, the annualised major injury rate per 100,000 workers increased from 16.8 to 18.7 within that same period.
The impact of the heightened safety period was uneven across sectors.
Construction showed the most improvement in terms of monthly average fatal and major injuries, falling from 1.6 to 0.3.
In the transportation and storage sector, there was no improvement in the monthly average fatalities, while the figure for major injuries went up.
Improvements in the annualised workplace fatality rate as well as in the construction sector show that tangible results in workplace safety are possible, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad.
"However, we are still not where we want to be – which is why we remain cautious and have decided to extend the HSP with additional measures," he added.
In 2022, there were 46 workplace deaths, higher than the 37 recorded in 2021, 30 in 2020 and 39 in 2019.