THE TEMASEK TIMES

News and views from an unique perspective

Workplace safety has not improved over the years – What is the government doing?

Posted by temasektimes on July 21, 2012

I read with sadness the news on July 18 about the 2 deaths and several other injuries of worksite workers as a result of scaffolding that collapsed at the Downtown Line construction site at Bugis.

Workplace accidents like these are very common in the construction industry – we read about it in the news all the time. Mostly they involve foreign workers, but occasionally they involve Singaporeans too, most notably the infamous Nicoll Highway incident. The question is: What are the authorities doing about it?

Yes, it was an accident, but why couldn’t it have been prevented? Why did safety inspectors not foresee this danger? Why were the ‘safety precautions’ the workers must have been part of not protect them from these accidents?

Precious taxpayers’ money is going to governing bodies such as the Ministry of Manpower and Land Transport Authority.

These authorities are constantly gaining awards which pride their effectiveness and efficiency. Yet, are they really? We would expect these authorities to do their job or else they would just be receiving taxpayers’ money for absolutely, nothing. And we expect them to do their job ALL the time, not just being complacent and doing only something when really MAJOR accidents happen (which seems to be the trend recently as we all know).

How many more major accidents, how many more wake-up calls do the government need before it wakes up from the fact that it has so much more to do? Yes, these workers may only be foreigners which have no stake in our country. However, when accidents happen, the cost incurred in terms of finances, manpower and precious time is hefty, to say the least, given how millions of dollars are injected into construction projects.

Resources are being wasted – resources that could have gone to benefit us. Also, sloppy workplace safety also may point to other areas of sloppiness in the construction process. Is this why there were all those engineering problems in the MRT system of late? Is this really the efficiency we know?

Granted, freak accidents do happen which nobody could have forseen. However, a simple analysis of the statistics of reported workplace fatalities from MOM’s websites shows that from 2006 to 2011, the number of workplace fatalities has remained roughly constant at 60 instead of decreasing! What has MOM been doing to decrease this number? Or have they grown used to this fact and not care that they are partly responsible for their inaction in stopping these deaths? Construction sites have big placards boasting of the number of hours their worksites have gone through without any worker injury. Yet, such things still happen. Why?

MOM controls the number of foreign workers that can enter Singapore each year. The question is, did MOM bring them in just to face a gruesome fate?

I love new buildings and convenient new train lines. But thinking of them being built as a result of blood and lives being sacrificed just makes me feel real queasy. These foreign workers live in filthy cramped conditions, are given low pay, and there are many cases of these workers even being cheated of their pay – yet in exchange of all these, their lives are traded.

Perhaps to many their lives are worthless. Yet they are still human like all of us and their right to live is as equal as any other human. For their precious lives to be sacrificed year after year and the authorities just letting it happen…It just does not seem right.

 

MICHELLE TAN

17 Responses to “Workplace safety has not improved over the years – What is the government doing?”

  1. kaypoh said

    The First Qin Emperor also sacrificed millions of slave lives building the Great Wall… today nobody knows their names but everybody knows the Wall (though it is dilapidated)

    Our Millionaire Minister will ask you, so what do u think, $400/month bangla worker?

  2. Thank you Michelle for seeing these workers as humans, not slaves nor expendables but as people with lives and goals and wishes too.

  3. SEE-ME-NO-UP-AH? said

    Despite paying fat million dollar salaries to those top govt. officials, all the boo boos, blunders, scandals and whatever you call them are still happening in 21st Century Singapore? These were rarely heard of during the last century in Singapore when the salaries were much much lower. The obvious conclusion: By paying ridiculously high superscale salaries is definitely NOT the solution and doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they can deliver the high standards expected of them as well. I’m quite certain there are more than enough local bred Singaporean “brains” around who are just as qualified and can fill in the gap. Furthermore, I’m sure they will be more than happy to accept a much lower fraction of the “obscenely high salaries” and can probably perform even better than our current ones. In order to deter corruption among high officials, the solution is for CPIB, CAD, etc. to conduct more constant surveillance, monitoring and keeping in check activities especially related to awarding of contracts.

  4. How can safety standard be improved when the employers are allowed to walk off with little fines? All most all of those died every years are FTs. How many of their families have ever sued the employers? Can you name me two cases?

  5. C.H. Tan said

    not only it does not improve despite we have so many law and restriction and also much money has been spend still same problem.
    WHY??? ARE WE MOVING ON THE RIGHT DIRECTION OR ARE WE MISSING THE IMPORTANT POINT BUT KEEP ON PRESSING ON THE WRONG POINT.

  6. kong man under the sun said

    Do nothing

  7. Ron said

    Very well said indeed. Workplace safety enforcement has been a dismal failure in Spore when its advanced status should have ensured that workplace safety is at a much higher standard.

    There are sufficient regulations and codes of practices. However, what is lacking is the poor quality of management and disregard for safety enforcement by the CEOs, managers and supervisors. In recent years the government has increased the fines and even sent some mid or low level staff to jail. What is needed is harsher enforcement. Starting sending the elite CEOs to jail will see a rapid change.

    In most cases, these companies make good profits. Safety First is just empty talk. They are not making enough efforts. And it is sad that deaths and injuries are not taken seriously enough. In truly first-class MNCs, they walk the talk. When major accidents occur, the local CEO is severley punished including dismissal. MNCs has a much higher standard of expectation and accountability. The government already knows that.

  8. pinoys love to suck cock said

    To pap…lesser mortals lives are nothing and worthless

  9. Naivety said

    How can Workplace Safety & Health improve when the papaya govt allows FTs with bogus & fake engineering qualifications to work as civil & structural resident engineers in Singapore???

  10. Webbie said

    Please lah…more often than not, the foreign workers themselves are the ones who create unsafe conditions or work unsafely. Let me give you a few examples:
    – removing floor opening covers without permission or telling anyone
    – remove barricades without permission and don’t put back
    – leave materials, tools lying all over the place and don’t clean up.
    – provide them with gloves, safety harness, tools but they are too lazy to take from the store
    – don’t pay attention during training
    – don’t use proper access but climb up like a monkey because the route is shorter

    I can tell you many more. In summary, these workers are just too used to their 3rd world working standards and find working safely too troublesome and tiring. There is a limit to what MOM and Singapore companies can do. Even MNCs with world renowned safety practices failed to control these 3rd world workers.

    • Yayapapaya said

      that’s because they don’t know any better! one day safety training given to them by MOM is enough meh to teach them these things? please..and the bugis incident…the scaffolding drop on the,, ur saying it’s the workers’ fault? they should increase the amount of safety training

      • Webbie said

        Please stop treating them as kids. These are adult workers, most of whom have worked in construction for many years. The safety violations I have mentioned stem from laziness and a complacent attitude due to their upbringing and culture. No amount of training can change these. Management can only enforce safety rules by giving warnings and fines but when management is not looking, the rules will be broken.

    • IronMan said

      True…from my experience, Bangala workers are the most obstinate. U need to crack the whip to make them comply to any work and safety regulations.

  11. […] Workplace safety has not improved over the years – What is the … […]

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