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Higher rate of workplace deaths in first half of 2022, drop in number of injuries

Higher rate of workplace deaths in first half of 2022, drop in number of injuries

Construction cranes seen at a construction site in Singapore on May 18, 2020. (File photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: A higher rate of workplace fatalities was reported in the first half of 2022, even as the number of reported workplace injuries fell, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (Sep 16). 

There were 28 workplace deaths in the first half of the year, bringing the 6-month fatality rate per 100,000 workers to 0.8.

This was higher than the 0.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in the second half of 2021 and 0.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers in the first half of last year. A total of 14 workplace deaths were reported in the second half of last year, and 23 deaths were reported in the preceding half.

Falls from height and vehicular-related incidents made up half of the 28 deaths reported in the first six months of 2022.

"MOM is concerned with the high rate of fatality," said the ministry. It introduced a series of measures and called for a six-month period of heightened safety from Sep 1 to Feb 28, 2023.

A total of 10,429 workplace injuries were reported in the first half of 2022, 4.5 per cent lower compared with the second half of 2021, when 10,915 injuries were reported. 

"This was driven by a decline in the number of both major and minor injuries," said MOM. 

MAJOR INJURY RATE

A total of 297 major injuries were reported in the first half of 2022, compared with 294 major injuries in the second half of last year. 

The major injury rate per 100,000 workers for the first half of 2022 fell to 8.7, down from 8.9 in the second half of last year. The rate of 8.7 was lower compared with pre-COVID levels, said MOM. 

"However, major injuries are still a concern as they reflect persistent safety lapses at workplaces," said the Manpower Ministry. 

There were also fewer minor injuries reported in the first half of 2022, with 10,104, compared with 10,607 in the second half of last year.

Slips, trips and falls remained the leading cause of both major and minor injuries, accounting for 95 of the 297 major injuries and 2,887 of the minor injuries.

CONSTRUCTION ACCOUNTED FOR MOST DEATHS

The construction industry accounted for the highest number of fatalities, said MOM, with 10 deaths reported in the first half of 2022 and a six-month fatality rate of 2.3 per 100,000 workers. 

It was also the biggest contributor of major injuries reported, with 84 cases and a six-month major injury rate of 19.1 per 100,000 workers. 

The Manpower Ministry said it has stepped up enforcement efforts in the construction industry. From January to mid-September, 63 stop-work orders were issued to worksites in the construction industry with unsafe conditions and practices that posed "imminent danger" to the workers. 

For example, a full stop-work order was issued to Wah Khiaw Developments on Aug 11. MOM found multiple unsafe practices at the worksite - workers were observed to be working at height without barricades or fall arrest systems, unsafe formworks, as well as unsafe means of access. The company was fined a total of S$15,000.

A worker (left) was not wearing a safety harness and was seen performing work at the edge of the third floor of the structure. Open sides, which are edges without barricades, were seen at multiple locations at the worksite. (Photos: Ministry of Manpower)

A photo provided by MOM showed a worker without a safety harness while working at the edge of the third floor of the structure.

Open sides, which are edges without barricades, were also observed at multiple locations at the worksite, said the Manpower Ministry. 

In another incident, a full stop-work order was issued to construction company KG Plasterceil on Sep 6 for multiple unsafe practices at the worksite. 

Photos provided by MOM showed toe boards and guardrails were not provided on the sides of the work platform, where workers could fall from more than 2m. 

MOM also found that workers were working on work platforms that were not closely boarded and properly secured, which may lead to the platform shifting. Some of the scaffold structures were erected on void areas, while others were placed on unstable foundations. 

Toe-boards and guardrails were not provided on the sides of the work platform where workers could fall from more than 2m of height. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)
Some of the scaffold structures were erected on void areas, while others were placed on unstable foundations. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)

MOM said it is assessing the need for further penalties and the extent of such penalties for KG Plasterceil.

The unsafe work practices occurred in spite of the ministry's calls for employers and workers to "step up" on safety practices during the heightened safety period. 

"These companies will have to engage external auditors to conduct a thorough review of their workplace safety and health management systems, and rectify the lapses found at the worksite before MOM assesses whether to lift the stop-work order for works to resume," it added.

To further raise safety standards, the Manpower Ministry also introduced a new set of harmonised disqualification criteria across public sector construction tenders from Oct 1. 

This is in addition to lower thresholds for issuing demerit points to companies that are found to have breached the Workplace Safety and Health Act. 

RISE IN VEHICULAR-RELATED FATAL ACCIDENTS

The number of vehicular-related fatal accidents has been rising over the last one and a half years, said MOM, calling this a "worrying trend". 

Seven such accidents were reported in the first half of 2022, of which four were work-related traffic accidents. This is higher than the second half of 2021 and the preceding half.

The recent mandatory safety time-out from Sep 1 to Sep 15 targeted companies in high-risk industries with a higher number of fatalities – construction, manufacturing, marine, process, as well as transport and storage. 

The safety time-out also targeted companies in other industries that use heavy or industrial vehicles. 

"They were required to review their safety procedures, or face debarment from employing new foreign employees for one month if found to be non-compliant," said MOM. 

The number of dangerous occurrences, which are incidents with a high potential for multiple casualties, more than doubled from six in the second half of last year to 13 in the first half of 2022. 

This is the highest in the past three years, said MOM. Nine occurrences in the first six months of this year were due to the collapse or failure of structures and equipment, mostly in the construction industry.

"MOM calls on all stakeholders, from top management to supervisors, to workers and members of the public, to do their utmost to prevent further deaths and injuries, and build safer workplaces," said the ministry.
Source: CNA/lk(mi)
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