Singapore Workplace Safety Lags

March 11, 2005

Workplace safety standards in Singapore are higher than in most other Asian countries, but remain below those of Japan and most of the European Union, a government minister said.

“We have reduced the number of accidents and deaths at workplaces over the past 10 years. But recently, safety standards have stagnated,” said Ng Eng Hen, manpower minister. Twelve people have died in workplace accidents in Singapore so far this year, compared to 13 in all of 2004, he said.

This city-state of 4 million people is one of Asia’s most modern and developed countries.

“In terms of our development of occupational safety and health systems, we have not kept pace with the most advanced countries,” Ng said at a parliamentary hearing. He singled out construction sites as places in need of better standards.

Singapore plans to reduce workplace accidents by requiring architects, engineers, manufacturers and suppliers to take more care with safety, and will introduce an act later this year mandating stronger standards and stiffer penalties for offenders, Ng said.

“Safety lapses resulting in mishaps are severely punished, but the penalties for offenses in the absence of mishaps are comparatively lower,” he said. “This encourages the industry to tolerate sub-optimal safety practices until accidents occur.”

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