SINGAPORE: There have been seven fatal workplace accidents so far in February, an "extremely alarming" figure compared to 30 deaths for the whole of last year, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Monday (Feb 22).
It sets a "worrying trend" for the year ahead, said Mr Zaqy, adding that the accidents occurred across various industries including construction, transportation and storage and marine.
The spate of accidents prompted the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) to call for a safety time-out on the use of machinery.
A safety time-out involves reviewing activities and protocols.
In a Facebook post, Mr Zaqy urged employers and workers to take a step back to reassess their workplaces and safety procedures.
"These incidents could have been prevented with adequate risk assessment of the workplace, and proper safety procedures in place. In particular, there were two cases where both deceased operated a boom lift and a forklift, even though they were untrained and unauthorised," he said.
"Contractors using such heavy machinery must ensure that only trained and authorised personnel are allowed to operate them. Keys to these machines should not be left unattended within the machines."
WORKER FOUND UNCONSCIOUS; DIRECTOR FELL THROUGH FLOOR OPENING
The seven accidents in February involved three workers who fell from height, three who were caught between objects, and one who was involved in a work-related traffic accident, said the WSH Council in a separate Facebook post.
In one accident on Feb 1, a plasterer was found unconscious and slouched against the control panel of his boom lift. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to an accident alert issued by the council.
In another accident on Feb 10, a company director was overseeing construction at a residence when he fell through a floor opening and landed on a staircase about 4.7m below. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating both accidents.
Mr Zaqy said that MOM will step up its enforcement with a greater focus on the risk of work-at-heights and safe use of machinery.
The ministry will target high-risk sectors such as construction, manufacturing and marine industries in the coming months, he said.
"MOM will not hesitate to take strict enforcement actions against companies who do not have the proper measures in place to safeguard the safety and health of their employees," added Mr Zaqy.
Action will also be taken against any workers caught operating machinery that they are not authorised or trained to operate. This may include cancellation of work passes in the case of foreign workers, he said.
WSH Council chairman John Ng said that accidents can be "easily prevented" if proper risk assessments are carried out, and site personnel adhere strictly to safe work procedures.
"I am gravely concerned with this spate of seven fatal workplace accidents that is unprecedented and the absolute unnecessary loss of lives," he said.
"I call on all employers to do a safety time-out especially on the use of machinery, to assess and review existing safety provisions and implement immediate necessary measures to uphold good safety practices."