Singapore to end Heightened Safety Period for applicable sectors on 31 May 2023

Singapore to end Heightened Safety Period for applicable sectors on 31 May 2023

With the HSP coming to an end, a new set of Safety Accountability, Focus and Empowerment measures has been released to enhance WSH ownership at the sectoral, company, and worker levels.

Singapore will end its Heightened Safety Period (HSP) on 31 May 2023 (Wednesday), with a set of new measures taking its place.

The HSP, which was enforced last September and meant to end on 28 February, was later extended to 31 May. Announcing the exit in his opening address at the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign Launch 2023, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said the following statistics and updates:

  • A total of 46 workplace fatalities were recorded in 2022.
  • The annualised fatality rate per 100,000 workers fell from 1.5 for January to August 2022, the period before HSP, to 0.8 for September 2022 to till-date. "This is significant, as it means that the average number of fatalities fell by almost half from 4.5 per month before HSP to 2.3 during HSP."
  • He added: "If we can maintain this level of performance on a sustained basis, we will have Singapore just among five countries in the OECD with similar WSH performance outcomes. This is one positive outcome of the HSP which we can be assured of that the HSP has done its job."
  • What remains concerning, he noted, is the major injury rate, which worsened from 16.8 per 100,000 workers before HSP to 19.2 during HSP.
  • Overall, the HSP impact was uneven across sectors. While the construction sector remained the top contributor in terms of the absolute number of workplace fatal and major injuries, it showed the most improvement in the fatality andmajor injury rates during HSP.
  • The drop in the total number of fatalities during HSP was likely due to the improvement in major injuries in Construction that have a higher risk of fatality, such as falls from heights.
  • However, smaller construction sites, addition and alteration (A&A) works and renovation involving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continued to see higher fatal and major injuries.
  • Overall, construction remained the top contributor in terms of the number of workplace fatal and major injuries.
  • The annualised fatal and major injury rate for the manufacturing sector during HSP worsened, and it was the worst sector during HSP, exceeding that for construction.

SMS Zaqy went on to share that the HSP cannot be extended indefinitely, as it "relies primarily on tougher enforcements and penalties, and is not a sustainable approach."

However, he added, "it is imperative that we continue to sustain the momentum to further strengthen WSH at all levels."

In that vein the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce (MAST) has introduced a new set of Safety Accountability, Focus and Empowerment (SAFE) measures that aim to enhance WSH ownership at the sectoral, company, and worker levels. Sector-specific measures include stricter safety requirements in government procurement tenders and expanding the Demerit Point System to the Manufacturing sector.

At the sectoral level

1. Retain MAST as a standing committee

  • Continue to drive the SAFE measures and develop further broad-based and sectoral measures to address leading causes of workplace incidents.

Implementation timeline: Immediate

2. Introduce more stringent safety requirements, and new measures in Government Procurement Entities’ tenders to incentivise good safety performance

  • Establish a set of harmonised WSH criteria for public construction and construction-related projects to strengthen WSH ownership across all levels of main and sub-contractors (e.g. extend Safety Disqualification framework to ensure that only contractors with a minimum safety performance participate in tenders).
  • Require a minimum safety weightage for tender evaluation of public construction and construction-related projects.
  • Introduce additional WSH requirements for public construction projects above a certain Estimated Procurement Value (e.g. a WSH bonus scheme to incentivise good safety performance).
  • MAST member, Senior Minister of for National Development State Tan Kiat How, will be consulting the industry before MND/ MOM announce the finalised measures.

Implementation timeline: To be confirmed

 3. Expand the demerit point system for the construction sector to manufacturing, to deter WSH breaches and uplift standards

  • Deter WSH breaches in the manufacturing sector, with the expansion of the demerit point system from construction to manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing companies that accumulate at least 25 demerit points for WSH contraventions (such as composition fine; Stop Work Order; and prosecution action taken for major injuries, dangerous occurrences, and fatality) within an 18-month period will be temporarily debarred from employing foreign employees.

Implementation timeline: October 2023

4. Require a video surveillance system (VSS) at worksite locations where high-risk work activities are ongoing, for Construction sites with project value ≥S$5mn, to help companies better manage safety

  • Help companies better manage safety by requiring VSS for high-risk activities.
  • VSS is a network of cameras, monitors/display units and recorders for surveillance, identification of WSH risks, facilitation of incident investigation and corrective actions, and to potentially deter unsafe WSH behaviours.

Implementation timeline: June 2024

5. Expand the MAST membership.

  • Take a more holistic approach to WSH, and drive sectoral measures and performance more effectively by expanding the composition of MAST to include the Ministry of Health, Industry Leaders, and the Labour movement.

Implementation timeline: By end-2023

6. Ensure safe use of machineries and combustible dust

  • Enhance existing WSH Regulations to require companies to comply with additional standards:
    • Legal duties on manufacturers and suppliers of more types of industrial machines, equipment and hazardous substances, to ensure that these are inherently safe when used; and
    • Labelling of organic combustible dust and users of combustible dust of prescribed amounts to notify MOM and their building owner/ landlord.

Implementation timeline: June 2024

At the company level

Retained from HSP:

  • Require chief executives (CEs) to personally account for serious WSH lapses following serious or fatal workplace incidents (Only for selected cases).
  • Require companies with major injuries and Stop Work Order to engage external auditors to conduct a thorough review of their WSH processes.
  • Require CEs to attend the ½ day in-person Top Executive WSH Programme, for companies with serious WSH lapses following serious or fatal incidents.

Implementation timeline: Immediate

1. Require CEs or Board Directors of all companies in higher-risk industries to attend the Top Executive WSH Programme (online or in-person)

  • Better equip corporate leaders in construction, manufacturing, transport & storage, and marine industries to meet their WSH responsibilities and place clear accountability to improve WSH.
  • The curriculum for the Top Executive WSH Programme will include principles in the Approved Code of Practice on Company Directors’ WSH Duties, root cause analysis, and knowledge on how to prevent accidents and ways to develop a company’s WSH capabilities.

Implementation timeline: Required from Mar 2024 (In-person programme is already available and the online programme will be ready from September 2023)

2. Ramp up the Enhanced Workplace Health Surveillance (WHS+) programme for noise

  • Detect exposure to excessive noise and reduce workers’ risk of noise-induced deafness by requiring all companies identified to have higher risk for noise to:
    • Conduct workplace noise monitoring; and
    • Send their workers exposed to excessive noise for annual audiometric examinations.

Implementation timeline: May 2023

3. Provide more support to SMEs through SME Centres

  • Provide an additional avenue for SMEs to seek consultation on WSH matters and gain access to WSH resources to improve their WSH capabilities, such as bite-sized WSH guidance resources.
  • SMEs will also be informed about available capability-building programmes like StartSAFE and bizSAFE, as well as upcoming WSH events and announcements.

Implementation timeline: June 2023

At the worker level

1. Launch the annual National WSH Campaign to enhance safety reporting 

  • Encourage employers to facilitate internal company reporting for WSH and workers to report unsafe workplace practices. MOM has also made available three channels for ease of reporting via:
    • MOM’s FWMOMCare app;
    • Unions; and
    • SnapSafe, a dedicated page on MOM’s website.

Organised by the WSH Council, and supported by MOM, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation, the tagline for this year’s WSH Campaign is 'Reporting Saves Lives'. The campaign seeks to build a stronger whole-of-society ecosystem to ensure workplace safety, by calling on:

  • Employers to set up an internal reporting framework within their companies, to build a culture of trust between employers and workers where everyone watches out for one another, thereby reducing risks;
  • Workers to proactively report any unsafe situations to their employers, union leaders, or if need be, to MOM; and
  • Members of the public are to report unsafe workplace situations to MOM, using the SnapSafe web service.

Implementation timeline: May 2023

2. Introduce online micro-learning component to Safety Orientation Course recertification assessment

  • Enhance safety training for workers in higher-risk industries by introducing a new online micro-learning component to the Safety Orientation Course recertification assessment. This comprises modules based on high-risk work activities, such as Work at Height, vehicular safety, STF and machinery safety, starting with the Construction sector and expanding subsequently to Marine and Metalworking.

Implementation timeline: January 2024

Apart from the above, the following measure will be retained from the HSP, with immediate effect: doubling the quantum for the composition fine from a minimum of S$1,000 to S$2,000 per WSH lapse.

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Lead photo / SMS Zaqy's Facebook

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