SINGAPORE: Companies with poor workplace safety and health performance will face harsher penalties from Tuesday (Jun 14) after a rise in fatalities this year, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The composition fine for offences observed during MOM inspections will be doubled from S$1,000 to S$2,000 on average, up to a maximum sum of S$5,000.
Companies that have been issued with stop-work orders or have had major injuries will be required to engage external auditors to conduct a thorough review of their processes.
"We must move upstream and nip the problem in the bud before a fatality takes place," said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad after a worksite safety inspection on Monday.
There have been 26 workplace fatalities so far this year, surpassing the 23 cases recorded in the first half of 2021.
"We are keeping a close watch on the number of major injuries, which is over 200 in the first four months of 2022. This is comparable to the same period last year and pre-COVID," said Mr Zaqy.
The accidents were mainly in the manufacturing, construction and marine shipyard sectors, and 65 per cent of the fatalities and major injuries involved workers from small- and medium-sized enterprises, said MOM.
ENFORCEMENT STEPPED UP
The Manpower Ministry has stepped up enforcement, almost doubling inspections this quarter compared to the same period last year.
More than 1,400 inspections have been conducted since April and close to 3,300 enforcement actions were issued, said Mr Zaqy.
"Strong focus has been placed on work at heights, machinery and vehicular safety, as these are the common causes of accidents leading to fatal or major injuries this year," he told reporters.
During one of the inspections on Monday, MOM officers found several lapses at Goh Seng Lai Company, which specialises in setting up tents and stages for events.
Lapses include the use of an unlicensed forklift operator and the lack of guardrails for floors that were more than 2m high, as well as wires exposed from the circuit board.
The company has been issued a stop-work order.
Its director Goh Beng Koon said that the firm has run into difficult times since the COVID-19 pandemic and is also in the process of relocating.
“At the new site, we will try to fulfil MOM's regulations. But we'll also try to fulfil regulations at the current site,” he added.
Mr Zaqy said authorities will place more accountability on company management by bringing forward the implementation of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) for Company Director’s WSH Duties.
"This will be a yardstick by which we assess if reasonably practicable measures have been taken by company leaders to upkeep safety standards," he said.
"The courts can also take into account whether companies heeded guidance set out in the ACOP in deciding judgments and penalties."
Last month, MOM, the WSH Council, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and industry partners had called on companies to conduct a safety time-out amid a "worrying spate" of workplace fatalities across various industries.
Safety time-outs typically involve taking a pause in work for senior management to engage workers and unions in reinforcing workplace safety and health processes, and to act on any issues raised.