More breaches of safety, health rules at workplaces in S'pore

SINGAPORE – More than 3,200 workplace safety and health (WSH) contraventions were found during inspections between January and April, almost double the 1,800 contraventions recorded the same period last year.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the rise is due partly to more enforcement operations this year.

Some 1,600 WSH inspections were conducted from January to last month, up from 1,000 over the same period last year.

This year’s inspections included those conducted under Operation Bullfinch 2 – which targeted 500 companies working with combustible dust – following a fatal explosion in Tuas in February that killed three and injured seven.

Safety experts said the increase in contraventions could mean the stepped-up inspections uncovered lapses that might otherwise have gone undetected.

Mr Ngo Seow Kuan of QuESH Consultants agreed, likening inspections to “a cat and mouse game”.

“Construction worksites are dynamic, and the pace of work is very fast. Employers may provide quick-fix ways just to tide them over the situation since the risky work activities may not be there any more in a couple of days’ time,” he said.

Complementing these inspections are audits on the safety and health management system in place at workplaces.

As part of efforts to align audits with international standards, MOM will in October fully roll out a revamped safety audit checklist for the construction industry. Key improvements include reducing the audit focus on documentation checks, said an MOM spokesman.

The revised checklist was piloted at 10 worksites last September, and MOM sought feedback from industry players and WSH auditors following the trial.

Mr Ngo, who was involved in the trial, said that while the new checklist is likely to improve processes – the number of fields has been whittled down to about 200 from more than 300 – it is still too long.

“It requires us to spend most of the time checking documentation, meaning that not much time is left to inspect the site,” he said.

He added that the audit checklist could be improved by encouraging checks at the company level.

“Positive WSH culture should come from the top. (Thus) we could look at whether WSH is prioritised at management level, before heading down to the site,” he said.


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