Melvin Yong: Unions Play an Integral Role in Minimising Workplace Fatalities

Union leaders must work with tripartite partners to help eliminate workplace fatalities.
By Ian Tan Hanhonn 01 Nov 2022

Unions are a key channel to garner ground feedback and concerns on workplace safety and health, said NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Melvin Yong.

He was speaking at NTUC U Safe Forum and Awards 2022, held on 1 November 2022 at the Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability.

Over 200 participants, including Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad, attended the event.

Mr Yong added that overseas studies showed that unions’ efforts and workplace safety outcomes are intrinsically linked, which also applies to Singapore.

“Out of the 40 workplace fatalities recorded this year, the majority of these incidents involved workers in non-unionised companies or sub-contractors at workplaces occupied by non-unionised companies,” he shared.

Mr Yong added that two main factors were the result of better workplace safety and health (WSH) outcomes in unionised companies.

First, unionised workers were more willing to speak up on safety matters. Second, unions were better able to influence employers to prioritise safety at the workplace.

He called for union leaders to step up to help end the rising number of workplace fatalities, which has reached 40 deaths for 2022 – three higher than all of 2021 combined.

He said: “Brothers and Sisters, as union leaders, workplace safety practitioners and advocates, we can make a difference to minimise workplace accidents.

“[We must] organise ourselves to work with our companies to set up workplace safety committees; train ourselves in risk assessment to be better able to identify safety gaps at our workplace; monitor and track every accident and near-miss reported at the workplace; work closely with the management to put in place measures to make sure that it does not happen again.”

Mr Zaqy echoed Mr Yong’s call, saying that for Singapore to achieve the 2028 objective of less than one fatality for every 100,000 workers – a strong tripartite collaboration is needed to get us back on track.

He said: “The union plays an important role in strengthening ground-up efforts to engage companies’ management and provide workers with a safe channel to highlight safety issues and concerns.

“The unions, as the eyes and ears on the ground, play a key role in providing a trusted channel of feedback for workers to raise their concerns. If management is not listening, I hope the union can pick up and make sure that they give the feedback the right channels so that we [the Government] can pick it up.”

Companies Recognised for Safer Workplace Practices

A total of 19 unions and companies were recognised for their efforts in championing safer and healthier workplace practices and environments for their workers at the NTUC U Safe Forum and Awards 2022.

This year marks the highest number of awardees ever to be conferred the U Safe award since its inauguration in 2015.

This year’s awards were conferred to unions, unionised companies and U SME partners, many of whom have shown exemplary efforts in upholding workplace safety standards.

Efforts ranged from adopting WSH technology to monitor workplace safety to caring for workers’ health and mental well-being.

The awards also showcased the union and company management’s commitment to working together to create safer workplaces.