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Repeat offenders made up more than half of 558 companies with workplace safety breaches

Repeat offenders made up more than half of 558 companies with workplace safety breaches

Migrant workers working at a construction site in Singapore on Sep 14, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Repeat offenders made up "slightly more" than half of the 558 firms penalised for workplace safety breaches in a recent enforcement operation, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad told Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 29).

This was despite a six-month heightened safety period, from Sep 1 to Feb 28 next year, and "repeated calls" by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), he said.

MOM's enforcement operation from Aug 15 to Oct 17 was aimed at reducing slips, trips and falls, which were the leading cause of major workplace injuries in the first half of the year.

The repeat offenders received stiffer penalties such as higher composition fines compared to first-time offenders, Mr Zaqy said in response to a question from Member of Parliament Melvin Yong (PAP-Radin Mas).

Companies with poor workplace safety and health (WSH) performance were also inspected more regularly.

"For instance, DA Engineering Pte Ltd, a repeat WSH offender, was issued a stop-work order and fined a total of S$8,000 as this enforcement operation continued to uncover multiple unsafe conditions in its workplace," he said.

A total of 1,828 enforcement actions were taken against the 558 companies, which were in the construction, manufacturing, transportation and storage, and the accommodation and food services sectors.

The operation uncovered common breaches such as hazards not identified during risk assessments, control measures not implemented for poorly maintained flooring and workers wearing inadequate footwear, said Mr Zaqy.

He noted that "tangible improvements" to unsafe workplace practices go beyond issuing penalties.

MOM, therefore, requires companies with fatal or major injuries to engage external auditors for a thorough review of their workplace safety and health practices, and to implement measures to prevent a recurrence, he said.

In particular, under the StartSAFE programme initiated by the WSH Council, small and medium enterprises have access to workplace safety and health consultants who can provide professional advice and hands-on guidance.

Mr Zaqy added that there were "some promising results" from the heightened safety period so far.

Before Sep 1, there were about 4.5 fatal workplace accidents a month on average. This fell to about two a month after the heightened safety period was put in place, he said.

More than 30 companies have been required to engage external auditors to review their workplace safety and health processes.

Two firms were debarred from employing new migrant workers for up to three months, and their CEOs had to "personally account" to MOM to take responsibility for the rectification, said Mr Zaqy,

"So this also shows the change in posture that we're taking now to make leaders, CEOs a lot more accountable for fatalities and major injuries in their workplaces," he said.

There have been 42 workplace fatalities in Singapore so far this year, exceeding the 37 deaths reported for the whole of 2021.

The latest fatalities reported were on Nov 25 and Nov 26. In the earlier incident, a worker fell into the sea off Jurong Island while conducting scaffolding work. The other incident involved a cleaner who fell from a height of about 9m while cleaning window panes at a condominium.

Singapore reported a higher rate of workplace deaths in the first half of the year, with a six-month fatality rate of 0.8 per 100,000 workers.

Source: CNA/dv(gs)


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