SINGAPORE — The government has begun inspections of almost 500 companies for potential combustible dust hazards in the wake of the Tuas accident last week, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Wednesday (3 March).
The explosion at Stars Engrg in Tuas last Wednesday killed three workers and left another five in critical condition. Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo will appoint an inquiry committee to investigate the accident.
The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that four of the injured workers from the accident have been moved out from the intensive care unit to the high dependency ward.
The previous time an inquiry committee was convened for a workplace accident was in 2004, to investigate the MRT worksite incident that led to the collapse of Nicoll Highway.
Speaking in Parliament on his ministry’s budget debate, Zaqy said the inspection is to ensure that risks are minimised at the relevant workplaces.
Zaqy also said the responsibilities for workplace safety lie with both main contractors and subcontractors.
To motivate both sides to improve in this area, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) launched an electronic service in January to make construction companies’ safety records readily available, Zaqy said. MOM intends to introduce this and other services to other sectors, he added.
For construction fatalities involving subcontractor workers, the authorities will also prosecute the main contractors if they fail in their duty to ensure safety of workers on the site, Zaqy said. Later this year, MOM will release a framework emphasising safety performance for public sector construction tenders, and Zaqy added that he hoped the private sector will follow suit in due course.
The approach is an important complement to penalties for workplace safety and health-related prosecutions, Zaqy said. The maximum penalty for such offences was increased from $250,000 in 2016, to $400,000 in 2019.
Based on MOM’s inspections, almost all companies have appointed a safe management officer, according to Zaqy.
“Since the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004, our workplace fatal injury rate has reduced from 4.9 per 100,000 workers to 1.1 per 100,000 workers in 2019. This is a level achieved only by a handful of developed countries. But still, we must never be complacent. We remain committed in our goal in making Singapore one of the safest workplaces in the world,” Zaqy said.
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