Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin has urged all companies to take ownership of workplace safety and health after a spate of fatal accidents this year.

"2014 has started on a sombre note," Mr Tan wrote in the Ministry of Manpower's official blog yesterday. "To date, eight workers have lost their lives to workplace accidents. This is not tenable. It is an employer's basic responsibility to ensure that every worker returns home safely at the end of a hard day's work. Employers must do everything they can to fulfil this responsibility."

Mr Tan said all of those fatalities could have been avoided, and the Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHD) has been tasked to thoroughly investigate the accidents and recommend ways to prevent recurrences.

A number of the accidents involved formwork, including two that took place over the past week as OSHD stepped up formwork inspections, visiting 42 structures and issuing four stop-work orders.

Mr Tan said the Ministry is working with the industry to discuss ways to enhance formwork-related work processes. Industry leaders have also given feedback that tight deadlines may have led to unsafe work procedures.

"I want to make it clear that tight timelines or otherwise, there is no excuse for cutting corners or sacrificing workers' safety or their lives," he wrote.

Fatal workplace injuries have actually been on a decline over the past few years. Latest data from the Workplace Safety and Health Institute showed 25 fatal injuries in the January to June period in 2013, compared with 26 in the year-ago period and 31 the year before that.

A total of 94 factories and worksites were issued with stop-work orders in 2013, down from 123 in 2012, according to Ministry of Manpower statistics.