A representational image of a construction worker. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Starting today, June 1, Singapore is raising the penalty for lapses in workplace safety. The maximum fine has been increased 2.5 times to SGD 50,000 from SGD 20,000, media reports said.

A representational image of a construction worker. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Moreover, construction sites with a contract amount of at least SGD 5 million will have to install CCTV cameras as a safety measure.

As per reports, Singapore has reported 149 workplace fatalities between 2020 and 2023. Though the country witnessed a 21.7 percent decline in workplace deaths, from the 46 fatalities, recorded in 2022, it still accounted for the loss of 36 workers.

These numbers are likely to have played a part in the new decision. The new fine will apply to all industries under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act Subsidiary Legislation. It will cover offences that are a major cause of death or serious injury, including an explosion.

Offences also include the lack of protective structures to prevent falls, oversight while choosing the right candidates for the job and equipment inspection failure.

During a visit to Serangoon Polyclinic’s worksite on May 27, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad spoke about the new fine. The lawmaker said “We don’t want to have a situation where we are complacent. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.

“We had a record low year last year, but let’s bear in mind as well that in the year before that, we were still grappling with high (fatality and major injury) rates. Therefore, we wanted to ensure that this is sustainable over time.”

Melvin Yong, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general, who was also present at the site, said: “Every worker’s life matters. I hope that the higher penalty will make companies think twice and put in place genuine and permanent solutions to make our workplaces safer.”

Recently, an Indian worker was killed after he inhaled toxic fumes while cleaning a tank at national water agency PUB’s Choa Chu Kang Waterworks. The deceased, identified as Srinivasan Sivaraman, 40, was a cleaning operations manager at Supersonic Maintenance Services. He was found unconscious at the site on May 23 and was pronounced dead later that day.

While it’s not reported whether PUB faced a fine, according to a Straits Times report, PUB has “called a safety time-out for similar operations in confined spaces and is reviewing the associated safety measures”.

In a separate incident, the family of a 23-year-old Indian construction worker, who died in the workplace last December, raised questions about his death. Ponraman Eazhumalai died on December 2 after he was caught between the chassis of a concrete pump truck and a retracting outrigger. The fatal accident took place at the worksite for the upcoming Tengah integrated rail and bus depot at 770 Jurong Road, as per ST.

In September last year, a 34-year-old Indian national lost his life in an accident at a construction site in Pasir Ris Industrial Drive 1. The Alliance E&C employee was hit by a steel bar, causing his death.

With the fine raised by the government, companies will look to take extra precautions and avoid workplace fatalities and injuries in the future.