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Stiffer penalties for companies with poor workplace safety after spike in fatalities

Companies with poor workplace safety and health (WSH) performance will incur stiffer penalties from Tuesday (June 14).

These include the doubling of composition fines for offences observed during safety inspections, up to a maximum of $5,000, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said.

Companies that have been issued stop-work orders or have had workers experiencing major injuries will also have to engage external auditors to review current systems.

Speaking to reporters after a worksite safety inspection at Defu Lane on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said it is important to tackle the issue upstream.

"From our recent inspections, including today's, it is clear that companies need to take greater ownership of safety at the workplace," he said, adding that MOM will be placing more accountability on company management.

Enhanced enforcement measures are being introduced in the wake of a spike in workplace fatalities.

There have been 26 cases this year to date - the most in the same period since 2016.

The surge prompted a call for employers to implement a safety timeout last month to review workplace safety and health.

MOM said more than 200 major injuries were reported during the first four months of this year.

It added that 65 per cent of fatalities and major injuries involved workers employed by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

During the inspection, Mr Zaqy and a team of MOM officers looked through the various operations and safety features put in place by Goh Seng Lai Company, a contractor that specialises in setting up tents and stages for events.

Several safety violations were flagged by MOM officers including the use of an unlicensed forklift operator and the lack of guardrails on the second floor of the company's premises.

The company will be issued a stop-work order.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (left) during a worksite safety inspection at Defu Lane on June 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
 

The worksite safety inspection on Monday was part of MOM's ramped-up enforcement efforts, which was announced in April.

More than 1,400 inspections have been conducted in the second quarter of 2022, almost double the number for the same period last year.

About 3,300 enforcement actions have been issued since April, with MOM placing an emphasis on work at heights, as well as machinery and vehicular safety.

These inspections have largely been centred around the manufacturing, construction and marine shipyard sectors.

Urging workers to report unsafe working conditions to their supervisors or to MOM, Mr Zaqy said: "Many of these fatalities and workplace injuries were preventable, and were not due to inexperienced workers.

"Instead, they occurred due to basic safety lapses, such as inadequate control measures and lack of compliance with proper work methods."

"This goes to show that company management must prioritise workplace safety and health while managing the progress of their work."

WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTHWORKER WELFAREMinistry of Manpower