PM Lee sets ambitious goal to reduce workplace fatality rate

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has set a more ambitious, 10-year target of reducing deaths at the workplace to 1.8 per 100,000 workers.

Singapore’s aim right now is to halve the fatality rate to 2.5 by 2015 and Mr Lee said this target is “well within reach”.

Mr Lee was speaking at the launch of the Workplace Safety and Health Campaign 2008 on Tuesday.

The stakeholders from industry and the tripartite partners endorsed the aim to keep the number of accidents down and to design safety into the work process.

A new council has been set up to develop codes of practice for the different sectors.

Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council, said: “What we are trying to do is to see how we can make sure that we address the key areas of vulnerability. So we looked at the statistics in Singapore from the experience in workplace safety and health, and the sectors which need to have better practices than currently.

“So for example, the areas we are looking at (includes) metal pressing – the safe use of machinery – and we are looking at supervision in construction where the statistics indicate more needs to be done.”

PM Lee explained that if accidents were analysed, many creative and innovative ways could be found to tighten safety standards and practices, and to correct what workers and companies are still not doing properly.

He stressed that every safety improvement that Singapore’s workforce makes is an important one because it will reduce the risk of tragedy and prevent the further loss of lives.

PM Lee said: “From time to time, accidents would still occur, and we would have to deal with them. But we had developed an effective framework, with clear principles for safety management.

“This would keep accident rates to a minimum, not just by responding to accidents when they occur, but by designing safety into the work processes and pro-actively detecting and fixing unsafe practices before accidents happen.

“We must convince employers that a safe and healthy workplace makes good business sense. Workplace injuries and fatalities can result in not only financial expense, but also loss of reputation.

“On the other hand, a safe workplace environment and a good safety record will give workers confidence that the firm has their well-being at heart, and motivate them to perform that much better.

“Hence, every employer and business owner should see good safety and health practices as an investment for the future, not an additional cost burden.”

The Prime Minister noted that in 2004, accidents at the workplace resulted in the loss of 83 lives or 4.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers. And in 2007, the fatality rate dropped to 2.9.

At the heart of this year’s campaign is a 40-foot container, a mobile exhibit which will visit various workplaces. The aim is for the container to reach out to some 200,000 workers during the year, with a whole host of educational materials on workplace safety and health.

The ultimate goal is for Singapore to have one of the best workplace safety records in the world. – CNA/vm

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 29 Apr 2008

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