Number of workplace deaths similar to previous 2 years despite reduction in activities due to COVID-19

Number of workplace deaths similar to previous 2 years despite reduction in activities due to COVID-19

Singapore migrant workers 1
Migrant workers work at a construction site in Singapore on Aug 20, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan RAHMAN)

SINGAPORE: Singapore registered a similar number of deaths at the workplace for the first six months of 2020 when compared with the previous two years, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release on Monday (Sep 28).

This was despite the suspension of certain workplace activities in the second quarter of this year due to measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

There were 16 workplace fatalities in the first half of 2020 – similar to the same time period in 2019 and 2018 that saw 17 and 18 such incidents respectively.

The 12-month rolling fatal injury rate remained at 1.1 per 100,000 workers as of end-June 2020, similar to the rates as of end-June 2019 and end-December 2019.

The first half of this year saw fewer workplace injuries, which MOM said was “likely due" to the suspension of workplace activities in the second quarter of 2020.

The number of workplace injuries fell by nearly 25 per cent, from 6,630 in the first six months of 2019 to 4,996 for the same period this year.

mom workplace injuries
(Source: MOM)

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FALLS FROM HEIGHTS A "KEY CONCERN": MOM

In terms of fatal injuries, the leading causes remained as falls from height and vehicular-related incidents, MOM said.

It termed falls from heights as a “key concern” with four such fatalities in the first half of 2020, the same as the figures last year.

READ: More fatal workplace accidents despite decline in work activities due to COVID-19 pandemic

Vehicular-related fatalities fell from four cases in the first half 2019 to three cases in the same period this year.

The leading causes for major and minor injuries remained as slips, trips and falls, followed by machinery-related incidents, MOM said. However, the number of cases “fell significantly”.

Slips, trips and falls accounted for 58 major injuries in the first half of this year, down from 90 in the same period last year. Minor injuries related to these fell from 1,772 in the first half of last year to 1,450 in the the first half of 2020.

There were 29 machinery-related major injuries in the first half 2020, down from 44 in the same period last year, while machinery-related minor injuries dropped to 780 in the first half of 2020, down from 1,075 in the same period last year.

mom workplace injuries main causes
(Source: MOM)

CLOSER ATTENTION SHOULD BE PAID TO MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY

Overall, the transportation and storage industry accounted for the highest number of fatalities with five cases in the first half of this year.

Its 12-month fatality rate also increased from 3.1 per 100,000 workers as of end-December 2019 to 3.8 as of end-June 2020, MOM said.

The total number of fatal and major injuries in this industry was reported to be 31, similar to that in the first half of 2019 and second half of 2019 that saw 35 and 30 such injuries respectively.

mom workplace injuries by sector
(Source: MOM)

There was a “significant decrease” in fatal and major injuries in the construction industry.

“This is likely due to the suspension of construction activities and is not indicative of workplace safety and health (WSH) improvement in this sector,” MOM added.

In the construction sector, there were 29 cases in the first half of 2020, compared to 67 in the same period last year.

READ: 3 workplace deaths since start of new year: Ministry of Manpower

Its 12-month fatality rate also declined from 2.9 per 100,000 workers as of end-December 2019 to 2.2 as of end-June 2020.

The ministry added closer attention should be paid to the manufacturing industry which was the second-highest contributor of fatal injuries in the first half of 2020 with three cases.

It was also the top contributor for major and minor injuries in the first half of 2020, with 40 and 971 cases respectively.

The number of dangerous occurrences – incidents with a high potential for multiple fatalities – fell from nine in the first half of 2019 to four in the same period in 2020.

Out of the four, two were fire and explosion cases, and the other two were crane-related incidents.

Overall, the total number of occupational diseases cases fell by 26 per cent, from 264 in in the first half of 2019 to 195 in the first half of this year.

The top two occupational diseases were work-related musculoskeletal disorder and noise induced deafness, which jointly account for 92 per cent of all such cases in in the first half of 2020.

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"WORKERS' LIVES ARE AT STAKE"

To improve transparency and accountability, the WSH 2028 strategy recommendations will be progressively implemented to sharpen the commercial impact on companies with unsafe practices, MOM said.

From the fourth quarter of this year, the WSH performance of companies will be published, starting with construction companies.

Criteria will also be introduced to disqualify unsafe contractors from all public construction tenders.

From Sep 1, employers had also been required to report all work accidents that result in medical leave or light duty, MOM said.

The WSH Council has also been facilitating and encouraging companies to innovate and adopt WSH technologies.

Three WSH-related technologies have been made available to companies with grant funding support through MOM’s partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the Building and Construction Authority and Enterprise Singapore.

READ: Company charged over 2 fatal workplace accidents, former factory manager fined

Among these technologies is an electronic permit-to-work (e-PTW), which enables contractors to submit, track and monitor their PTW applications digitally through a centralised system.

It also includes fleet safety management solutions, which tracks hazardous driving behaviour and improves situational awareness, and the prevention of slips, trips and falls through IMDA’s Open Innovation Challenge.

In addition, the WSH Council has been engaging industries on restarting work safely following the lifting of the circuit breaker.

This includes campaigns to advise companies on both safe management measures, and additional precautionary WSH measures. The WSH Council has also released digital training materials on WSH and COVID-19 prevention, MOM said.

“As companies restart, they must not rush to make up for lost time,” said commissioner for WSH and divisional director of MOM’s occupational safety and health division Mr Silas Sng.

“Companies have invested much effort and resources through their safe management measures to keep their workplace and workforce safe from COVID-19.

“It would be counterproductive if an accident occurs and workers are seriously injured. Workers’ lives are at stake, hence WSH must not be compromised.”

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Source: CNA/aa(rw)

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