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2 more workplace deaths this week; calls grow for companies to prioritise worker safety

2 more workplace deaths this week; calls grow for companies to prioritise worker safety

Workers at a construction site in Singapore on Sep 28, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Two more workplace deaths were reported on Friday (Dec 4) by the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC), taking the death toll over the past two weeks to five.

In the first incident on Tuesday, two workers were packing goods in a warehouse when one worker heard a loud thud and found the other lying face up on the ground after a fall from height, the WSHC said.

The injured worker was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

On Wednesday, two workers were repairing a machine when its platen suddenly descended on one of the men. He was pronounced dead at the scene by attending paramedics, WSHC said.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating both incidents.

READ: Construction firms urged to review safety protocols after 3 workplace fatalities in 2 days

THREE WORKPLACE FATALITIES IN THE WEEK OF NOV 23

The two deaths this week come after three workers died in workplace incidents over a period of two days last week.

The first of the three incidents happened on Nov 23.

A worker was raising the work platform of a boom lift when he was caught between the guardrail of the boom lift and a roofing structural member, according to a bulletin on the WSHC's website.

The worker was extricated and pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

The next day, a worker was checking formwork panels at a construction site when he lost his footing and fell about 0.8m to the ground. The worker was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

The third incident also occurred on Nov 24 and involved a worker who was tasked to carry out arc welding on a pipe. 

To facilitate welding works, an inert gas was earlier introduced into the pipe. "The worker was subsequently found unconscious with his upper body inside the opening of an adjoining pipe," said the WSH accident notification.

He was pronounced dead in hospital.

MOM is also investigating these incidents.

Last week's fatalities led to calls by the WSH Council and Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) to urge construction firms to conduct a "thorough" safety time-out exercise at their worksites.

READ: Foreign worker fell 4.7m through board to his death, MOM considering action: Coroner

On Thursday, a coroner's report on a fatal incident in 2019 noted that MOM was considering taking action against the employer of a worker after he fell to his death from a height of 4.7m while carrying out a job at Shaw Plaza. Action is also being considered against the occupier of the building.

NTUC'S MELVIN YONG WEIGHS IN ON FATALITIES

In a Facebook post on Friday, NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong said he was "very concerned and alarmed" by the sharp increase in workplace fatalities. 

To date, the total number of workplace fatalities is at more two-thirds of the total number of workplace fatalities in 2019, Mr Yong said, adding that this was "against the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions, where there was a drastic drop in the level of business activities".

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

Referencing these incidents, Mr Yong said they serve as a "critical and grim reminder for the need to guard against fatigue or even complacency" as businesses resume activities and Singapore continues to move toward Phase 3.

"I urge companies to continue to prioritise and safeguard the safety of our workers, and not put the lives of our workers by rushing to catch up on work," Mr Yong said.

"Instead, companies would do well to push the pause button and review safety measures and protocol where necessary."

He also floated the idea of having a trained WSH representative at every organisation, who could ensure the implementation of safe management measures at the workplace to address the risk of COVID-19 infection does not compromise workplace safety.

"There is fresh impetus for us to look at ways to ease workers gradually back into their jobs, as many have not returned to their worksites for months," Mr Yong said.

He called on companies to consider implementing a structured reorientation programme for workers returning to the workplace after a prolonged period, especially in "high-risk areas such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and storage".

Source: CNA/kv(rw)

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