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Singapore’s Cost-Cutting Measures Might Risk Workplace Safety and Employee Wellbeing in 2017

June 30, 2017

As companies in Singapore are feeling the pressure to reduce expenditure against the backdrop of a global economic slowdown, it is exposing workplaces to compromise on safety and health standards thus posing a WSH challenge to the growing industries.

AIG Singapore forecasts workplace safety will be a significant risk for the next 12 months. Ms Debra Burford, AIG Singapore’s Head of Liabilities, said, “In the face of headwinds and fewer projects, we have seen that companies are facing increasing and unnecessary exposure in workplace safety and health, with less focus on safety measures and some firms even going against the law by not buying work injury insurance.

“The Workplace Safety and Health Institute’s figures showed that both major and minor injuries rose last year, even with continuing efforts by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to increase enforcement of safety rules and education programmes. This is a great cause for concern, as every fatality and injury is one too many, and companies cannot allow their workplace safety to be an afterthought.”

Latest claims data from AIG Singapore up to April 2017 revealed that the highest risks facing employees are slips and trips (21 percent), contact with stationary machinery or objects (12 percent), traffic accidents (7 percent)  and falls from height (5 percent).These types of accidents result in a myriad of injuries to workers, primarily finger and hand injuries including fractures, as well as back injuries.

AIG Singapore’s statistics indicate that back strains and fractures are some of the most costly injuries. Ms Burford said, “Whilst finger and hand injuries may not sound serious, they lead to downtime for both employees and employers which can be prevented with the incorporation of a strong safety and wellness culture within the organisation.”

AIG Singapore’s claims data also found that industries with greatest exposure to workplace injuries are marine and construction, followed closely by hospitality.

In the face of these growing risks, more companies are looking for an entire continuum of care for their employees, from pre- to post-incident assistance, rather than only providing support after something unforeseen happens.

Post-incident assistance and rehabilitation, in particular, are increasingly coming into focus. AIG Singapore forecasts that the proportions of companies helping employees manage their injuries will grow five-fold, from the current two percent to 10 to 11 percent in the next five years, especially as employers realise the benefits of reduced costs, increased productivity and employee morale.

“Research has shown that the probability of returning to work after an injury decreases with the amount of time spent away from work, with only 50 per cent of workers returning to work after six months away. This figure decreases to 25 per cent after one year.”

See: Workplace Safety: How Can You Prevent Common Injuries at Work?

“This is why AIG Singapore is focused on providing rehabilitation services with our in-house medical management services team for employees injured in workplace accidents, helping them recover quickly and return to work,” said Ms Burford.

Meanwhile, leveraging big data and connected devices to track and analyse worker behaviour will help companies identify risk spots and recommend ways to actively prevent losses.

AIG discovered in a survey last year that the majority (78 percent) of Singapore employees were open to sharing data about their movements and work conditions with employers, and 56 percent would wear a wearable device provided by an employer – making Singapore employees the most open to wearable devices amongst other countries surveyed.

Ms Burford added, “More companies are introducing wearable devices that could warn their workers if they are carrying too much weight, exposed to noxious gases, or standing too close to a dangerous area. Such data generated could result in a win-win for employers and employees by preventing accidents from happening in the first place.”

AIG Singapore is a leading insurer in supporting employers and employees with work injury compensation. Recently, the insurer launched new product features for workers compensation, such as cover for traditional Chinese medicine (in addition to the standard medical expenses limit), and overseas medical expenses and lost wages as well as express cover for increasingly popular portable mobility devices when travelling to and from work.

In 2016, AIG Singapore participated in a visiting expert seminar series on ‘Return-to-work: What’s Next’ in support of the Workplace Safety and Health Council. The insurer also participated in the return-to-work coordinators workshop organised by the MOM and Tan Tock Seng Hospital last October.

Also read: Addressing Futuristic Challenges to Total Workplace Safety and Health in Singapore

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