Workplace safety: Near-misses are early warning signs

This article is more than 12 months old

Rise in reporting of near-misses as number of workplace accidents falls

The number of near-miss incidents reported to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) by its contractors have soared from 73 in 2015 to 3,126 last year.

But in the same period, there was also a 16 per cent drop in the number of work-related accidents - which were reportable to the Ministry of Manpower - at LTA's project sites.

Announcing these numbers yesterday, LTA chairman Alan Chan said the results were "encouraging" and "reflects that effective near-miss reporting will positively bring about a safer workplace".

He was speaking at LTA's 19th Annual Safety Award Convention at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre.

A total of 23 contractors were honoured for their exemplary workplace safety and health practices.

LTA also launched a 43-page Workplace Safety, Health and Environmental Good Practices Handbook compiling 30 innovative solutions to challenges faced at most of its worksites.

They were drawn from its contractors that have "gone the extra mile to achieve safety and environmental excellence" for its projects.

LTA said that since November 2015, it has taken a deliberate approach to engage its contractors to report near-misses.

Near-misses are categorised as incidents that could have resulted in injury or damage to property and the environment.

Asked about the surge in near-misses reported, an LTA spokesman said: "As LTA instils a no-blame culture on sites, contractors have been coming forward to report their near-misses and to learn from them.

"Through near-miss reporting, LTA and our contractors have been able to identify lapses, and close the gaps in safety management."

Up to last month, 2,966 cases of near-misses were reported.

For contractors such as Shanghai Tunnel Engineering (Singapore) - which was presented with LTA's top safety award yesterday - reporting near-misses is essential.

Its managing director Khor Eng Leong said it has helped the company maintain a zero reportable-accident record at its worksite in Shenton Way, where it is constructing an MRT station and train tunnels.

A total of 145 near-misses have been reported since work started in 2014.

Workers can report near-misses via a WhatsApp chat group and are incentivised with supermarket vouchers of $30 for doing so, said Mr Khor.

"A near-miss is a potential accident. When it happens, we will intervene immediately and get the site supervisor to stop the work and retrain or counsel the worker involved," added Mr Khor, who is also project director for the Shenton Way MRT station project.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, former president of the Institute of Engineers Singapore, said it was a "positive sign" that LTA's contractors are paying attention to and learning from near-misses.

He added: "If near-misses are not highlighted, people will tend to think that it is okay to continue with the same way of doing things. Near-misses are good early warning signs."

Yesterday, Mr Chan also touched briefly on the fatal collapse of an uncompleted Pan-Island Expressway viaduct in July, which killed one worker and injured 10 others.

Mr Chan said it is a "painful reminder that accidents do happen and safety must be taken seriously by all".

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