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MOM instructs companies on Heightened Safety

Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) introduces the new “HEIGHTENED SAFETY” measures to address spate of workplace fatalities.

In Singapore as we already have seen from 1st January 2022 to 1 September 2022 we have had 36 fatalities in workplaces. These are the results of workplace safety health accidents.

We had a 72 year old Singapore Traffic Controller who was fatally injured on 16 Aug 2022.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) with effect from 1st September 2022 is introducing a slate of new measures to strengthen workplace safety and health (WSH) and improve WSH oversight. Of course this does not mean that companies just meet the bear minimum. All companies should strive to achieve the best workplace safety and health performance for their employees.

Ministry of Manpower mentioned that these new measures and a state of “Heightened Safety” is needed in view of the concerning rise in workplace fatalities this year. Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be working together with companies and will support companies in taking greater ownership of workplace safety and health (WSH) during the next six months of “Heightened Safety”. The Ministry of Manpower also mentioned that the Heightened Safety may be extended if necessary.

As of 1 September 2022, the number of workplace fatalities stands at 36 for 2022.

As Singapore just recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economy opens up, many companies may be playing catch up or workers from overseas may be returning to Singapore for work. Regardless of this, companies should still have their eye on workplace safety and health. The priority should always be on safety for their employees.

In the Ministry of Manpower press release it stated that most employers support the call for stronger workplace safety. MOM in turn will enable and support employers to instil a strong safety culture and implement good safety practices.

However for those companies that fall short on safety, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will increase the accountability of these companies and their senior management. MOM will implement the following measures to complement ongoing efforts

A. MOM will introduce a six-month “Heightened Safety” period from 1 September 2022 to 28 February 2023 during which:

i. If MOM finds serious workplace safety health (WSH) lapses such as unsafe workplace conditions or poor risk controls following serious or fatal workplace accidents, Ministry of Manpower may debar companies from employing new foreign employees for up to three months and require the affected company Chief Executives to personally account to Ministry of Manpower and take responsibility for rectifications.

ii. Companies are required to conduct a mandatory Safety Time-Out by allocating time to review their safety procedures and complete the Safety Time-Out activities. How long should Safety Time-Outs be? The length of the STO should be sufficiently long to review risks corresponding to the scale of operations. Companies must conduct the STO between 1 September 2022 and 15 September 2022. Companies that are found to be non-compliant to the Safety Time-out will be debarred from employing new foreign employees for one month.

B. Strengthen support for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who need help to improve their workplace safety health (WSH) practices and processes, through the expansion of StartSAFE: Under the existing StartSAFE programme, small and medium enterprises have access to WSH consultants who can help companies identify WSH risks and implement good WSH practices. The costs of the WSH consultants are fully borne by Ministry of Manpower MOM. More companies are encouraged to apply for StartSAFE as a follow-up to the Safety Time-Out safety reviews.

C. Introduce targeted measures for the construction sector from 1 October 2022:

i. A new harmonised set of disqualification criteria across all public sector construction tenders to align the evaluation criteria and temporarily disqualify contractors with poor WSH performance from participating in these tenders ;

ii. A Revised Demerit Point System , where the threshold for issuing demerit points will be lowered. This means that more demerit points will be issued for WSHA breaches and errant companies with consistently poor workplace safety health (WSH) performance will reach the penalty thresholds more quickly, after which they will be debarred from hiring foreign employees for up to 2 years.

D. Set up a Multi-Sectoral Workplace Safety Taskforce, advised by an external experts panel: Comprising representatives from key government agencies, this new taskforce will conduct sectoral deep dives into work practices and industry structures to strengthen safety practices and outcomes. The taskforce will be able to tap on ideas and advice from an external experts panel, comprising industry representatives and WSH consultants. Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad, will chair the Taskforce, more details of which will be revealed in due course. Agencies involved will include the Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In the press release Ministry of Manpower urged all employers and supervisors to place the utmost priority on the safety of their workers. It also stressed that all workers must also follow safety procedures, watch out for unsafe workplace practices, and bring them to the attention of supervisors and Ministry of Manpower MOM. MOM understands that as the economy recovers, there will be pressure to meet project timelines, but safety cannot take a backseat. We will support companies who seek to strengthen workplace safety, and will not hesitate to take action against companies with serious safety lapses and those found to be at fault for major workplace injuries and deaths.

We at Safety@Work believe that all companies and employers can do better. Yes there is pressure to perform, but if everyone does their job right- there will not be incidents and incidents not only hurt people but reduce productivity.

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