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Singapore aims to halve workplace fatality rate before 2028: PM Lee

SINGAPORE is looking to about halve its workplace fatality rate before 2028 to under one per 100,000 employed individuals.

The new target was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2017 - the first time the event is held in South-east Asia.

Mr Lee noted in his opening remarks that the Republic's current workplace fatality rate has fallen from five per 100,000 employed individuals in 2004 to 1.9 per 100,000 in 2016.

In other countries such as the Netherlands (0.5), the UK (0.8), and Sweden (0.7), the workplace fatality rates were all less than one per 100,000 employed individuals.

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While it will be tough improving Singapore's workplace fatality rate, Mr Lee is optimistic, citing the example of Finland, which halved its rate over 11 years, from 1.8 in 2002 to 0.9 in 2013.

To get there, he said Singapore has to maintain its tripartite approach to workplace safety and health, involving employers, workers, and the government.

"Ultimately, we want to encourage companies to take a holistic approach towards workplace safety and health. In Singapore, we call this Total Workplace Safety and Health (Total WSH) because there is a strong correlation between a healthy workforce and a safe workplace," said Mr Lee.

He said ill health is a key contributory factor in more than a third of work-related fatalities in Singapore.

Conditions like hearing loss, respiratory diseases, carpal tunnel syndrome, among others, can occur in the course of work, and can be prevented with a little bit of effort, he noted, adding that as the nation's workforce ages, workplace health will become an even greater concern.

Technology can help to reduce human errors that can lead to workplace accidents and companies are encouraged to use technology more pervasively to reduce such risks.

In line with this, the Manpower Ministry will launch a Workplace Safety and Health Technology Challenge that will fund companies and research institutes to develop new technological solutions.

For a start, the challenge will focus on vehicular safety, which is currently the top cause of workplace fatalities here, Mr Lee said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 2.8 million workers die from work-related injuries and diseases yearly, and close to a million people are injured every day. It also projects that around four per cent of the world's annual gross domestic product is lost as a consequence of work-related injuries and diseases.

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