MP Melvin Yong calls for heavier fines, tighter enforcement amid rise in workplace deaths

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SINGAPORE - Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) on Tuesday called for heavier fines to be imposed on errant companies when workplace deaths occur.

Speaking at the end of the sitting in Parliament, he said penalties for such companies mostly involve composition fines and stop work orders, which is insufficient.

This was one of four recommendations he mooted to keep workplaces safe beyond the heightened safety period, which ended on June 1.

The labour MP said 13 workers died between June and August after the heightened safety period ended, based on the National Trades Union Congress’ internal tracking.

There were 14 workplace deaths from January to June this year, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures.

During the heightened safety period from September 2022 to May 2023, companies had to carry out a thorough review of their safety procedures and were subject to additional measures. This had been imposed to curb a rise in workplace fatalities in 2022, when such deaths hit 46 – the highest yearly toll since 2016.

Mr Yong noted that the fatality rate had gone up from 2.3 deaths per month during the heightened safety period to an “alarming” 4.3 per month in the three months after.

In his adjournment motion, Mr Yong also called for tighter enforcement of unsafe work practices, such as conducting checks more frequently to deter companies from “cutting corners” in workplace safety and health (WSH) practices.

“Whenever there is a workplace accident or fatality, it is common to hear anecdotally that the particular unsafe work practice had been happening regularly, sometimes for months and years in some cases,” he said.

He acknowledged that MOM has been stepping up its enforcement operations, but said there is scope to do more.

Mr Yong added that the authorities should make it easier for workers and the public to whistleblow and flag unsafe practices.

All workplaces should have a dedicated WSH professional to review all aspects of safety in a company, he said. Even if this is not possible, the authorities can start by expanding the list of companies that are required to employ one.

He said MOM’s WSH regulations for design for safety - rules that oblige developers, contractors and designers to prioritise worker...

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