Thursday, August 16, 2012

Workplace Safety and Health Act - a case of "I see nutting,I know nutting"?

Gigamole remembers somewhat fondly, an old TV comedy series called Hogan's Heroes, where one of the most colourful characters was a German POW prison seargent, Sgt Schultz, who regularly articulates his famous line, "I see nutting, I know nutting...". Sometimes, I get the feeling that our Ministry of Manpower indulges a bit in this.

The Ministry of Manpower had taken a fresh and refreshing new position with respect to workplace safety in 2005. This was followed up by the enactment of the Workplace Safety and Health Act in 2006. Many of us involved in research labs, were encouraged by this new commitment to workplace safety, and despite the increased administrative, operational and logistic demands, faced up seriously to the challenges. Indeed, there was a flurry of activity on the ground to get procedures and guidelines up and going. Of all the research labs I know of, the National University of Singapore, I think, has been the most systematic and fervently active in pursuing this mission. That's why it's somewhat ironic that they have been the facility in Singapore whose labs have been most frequently blowing themselves up. (see 1, 2, 3, 4)

But despite all these incidents, there is no evidence that the Ministry of Manpower is noticing or doing anything about it. They seem to be content merely in inspecting construction sites. If there had been any action taken about the lab accidents cited above, it's all shrouded in secrecy. Gigamole maintains this is counterproductive. All accidents are learning opportunities. It is only through the systematic revelations of mistakes made at all levels that the infrastructure, management and operators can improve. This is the best way forward to better workplace safety.

Gigamole is really puzzled by the MOM's reluctance to discuss lab accident investigations publicly. Gigamole is reluctant to believe that this is because, unlike construction sites where the subcontractors are relatively lowly placed on the foodchain, the most liable person in the research lab is usually a high value researcher, or a high value institutional leader.

1 comment:

Nick Jordan said...
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