Workplace accidents can hinder business recovery, says minister

Employers and employees need to step up their workplace safety and health efforts as injuries and fatalities could hinder business recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng yesterday.

He stressed that companies must continue their workplace safety and health efforts amid the pandemic, on top of the safe management measures, to limit interactions at workplaces and prevent the spread of Covid-19 among workers.

"For businesses to remain operational and successful, it is vital that we care for our workers," he said. "It is not enough to protect our workers from the virus but yet expose them to workplace accidents."

Dr Tan also touched on his ministry's review of the introduction of safety criteria to qualify for public sector construction projects.

The Singapore Contractors Association Limited and the Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore are supportive of the move but have requested more time for the sector to prepare for the changes, he added. More details will be revealed at a later date.

Dr Tan was speaking at a virtual awards ceremony organised by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council. The double-bill awards ceremony - the WSH Awards and bizSAFE Awards - recognised a total of 256 companies and individuals.

His comments come after a spike in fatal workplace accidents. There were 23 work-related deaths in the first half of this year, an increase from 16 during the same period last year. In the first half of 2019, there were 17 such deaths.

The Covid-19 crisis has compelled businesses to "sharpen their risk management abilities", said Dr Tan, adding that such instincts apply equally to accident prevention.

"We have to mitigate these risks, while constantly monitoring and updating our control measures based on changing circumstances."

Dr Tan also highlighted the importance of workers' mental health.

From next year, a dedicated workplace mental well-being award will be part of the WSH Awards. It will recognise firms and individuals that have done well in fostering mental resilience at the workplace.

Details on the eligibility criteria and application process will be shared when the next round of WSH Awards applications opens early next year.

Dr Tan said: "Covid-19 has heightened the importance of mental well-being, given the blurring of work-life boundaries, social isolation, and uncertainty over jobs and business prospects."

Yesterday, the WSH Awards honoured 229 recipients for their exemplary safety records and best practices, while 27 recipients were given the bizSAFE Awards for their effective workplace risk management last year.