Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower said companies would not be allowed to hire new foreign workers for up to three months if unsafe work conditions or poor risk controls are found following serious and fatal workplace accidents. The Ministry added that the chief executives of these companies would also have to personally account for the lapses and take responsibility for rectifications.

The move comes amid a worrying rise in work-related deaths and injuries. The number of workplace fatalities as at September 1 stands at 36 for this year. The enhancement of workplace safety requirements is part of a six-month heightened safety period being imposed on companies by MOM, which can be extended if necessary. During this period, companies in higher risk sectors will have to conduct a safety time-out, which will be made mandatory for the first time. It affects all companies in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or transport and storage industries, as well as companies in other industries which use heavy or industrial vehicles, such as lorries and forklifts.

MOM said vehicular accidents were the top cause of workplace deaths this year, accounting for one in three of the 36 fatalities. Between September 1 and 15, companies in the targeted sectors will have to suspend operations temporarily to review safety procedures and complete a list of safety time-out activities. MOM did not specify the length of the safety time-out but said it should be sufficiently long to “review risks corresponding to the scale of the operations”.

Among other things, the company’s top management has to personally do a walk-about on site to encourage workers to report safety risks and near misses to their supervisors. The activities will need to be documented, and this will be checked by MOM officers during routine inspections. The ministry said if the safety time-out activities are not conducted by Sept 15, the companies will be barred from hiring new work pass holders for one month. In May, companies in Singapore were urged to take a safety time-out following 10 fatal workplace accidents the month before, but this was done on a voluntary basis.

MOM on Thursday also gave details about plans announced earlier to standardise the criteria used to disqualify unsafe contractors from public construction tenders, and to tighten the demerit points system for construction firms. The clamp down on safety lapses follows an increase in workplace fatalities, which is projected to hit a rate of 1.6 per 100,000 workers this year, the worst since 2017. In comparison, the workplace fatality rate in 2019 was 1.1 per 100,000 workers.

The Straits Times


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