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Ban transport of workers on backs of vehicles – TWC2

TWC2, an NGO which is involved in the welfare of migrant workers, shares its views on the recent traffic accidents involving workers who were ferried on the backs of vehicles.

Three Chinese workers died when a lorry in which they were being carried skidded and crashed onto its side on the morning of June 22nd. Some among the 14 survivors needed hospital treatment. The lorry crashed off the Pan-Island Expressway.

TWC2 has argued strongly against transporting workers on the backs of lorries and trucks and in favour of transport in enclosed vehicles. Road safety measures are not only meant to prevent accidents, but to minimise the harm done when they do occur. If the 17 workers had been travelling in a coach or a minibus (preferably with seatbelts), would the outcome have been this serious? We think that is not likely.

In an article on 'Safety on the Roads' that was published in the September-October 2007 issue of the TWC2 members' newsletter, our position was set out clearly:

'(T)he problem is that the rules as they stand do not adequately ensure the safety of men being carried and attempts to make a flawed system work are bound to fall short of their intended goals: transporting people in the open backs of lorries and trucks, without proper seating or seat belts and exposed to the elements, is inherently a risk to their health and safety – whether they be foreign workers or National Servicemen.

The Executive Committee believes that Singapore should ban the transport of people in the back of lorries or trucks. Instead, workers should be conveyed to and from work by buses or minivans hired or bought for the purpose and equipped with safety belts. We realize that this will impose additional costs upon contractors, but consider that the toll in lost lives and injuries under existing arrangements could be significantly reduced by this means and that this consideration should come uppermost. It should be recognised that the long term savings by companies on costs caused by accidents, including those due to the death or injury of workers, will defray these expenses somewhat. It will also close an issue that has disturbed many people, particularly when an accident has occurred.

We propose that the way to proceed on this issue would be for the government, through the Land Transport Authority, to declare that this measure is to be introduced and to set a target date for full compliance with it that will give contractors adequate time to make the arrangements necessary.'

This remains TWC2's view.

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