SINGAPORE — A higher rate of workplace fatalities was reported in the first half of this year, even as the total number of workplace injuries decreased, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a report on Friday (16 September).
With 28 workplace fatalities reported in the period, the six-month fatality rate per 100,000 workers rose to 0.8 from 0.4 and 0.7 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively.
The top causes of fatalities in the first half of this year were falls from height and vehicular-related incidents, which made up half of the 28 fatalities, according to MOM's latest report on workplace safety and health.
"MOM is concerned with the high rate of fatality," MOM said, adding that it had introduced new and targeted measures, as well as called for a six-month period of heightened safety from 1 September to 28 February next year.
"Should this trend continue, the annualised fatal injury rate for 2022 is expected to be at 1.6 per 100,000 workers, higher than 1.1 for both 2021 and 2019 (pre-COVID)," it noted.
At 28, the number of workplace fatalities over the period was also higher than 14 and 23 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively.
The number of reported dangerous occurrences – incidents which may or may not result in injuries but have the potential to cause serious injury and death – also rose to 13 in the first half of this year, the highest in the past three years. Nine were from collapse or failure of structures and equipment, while the remaining four were from fires and explosions.
The leading occupational disease was work-related musculoskeletal disorders at 163 cases, including back injury cases due to ergonomic risks, followed by noise-induced deafness at 138 cases.
Construction industry remains most deadly
The construction industry accounted for the highest number of fatalities at 10 deaths, and a fatality rate of 2.3 per 100,000 workers in the first half of the year.
It was also the biggest contributor of major injuries, with 84 cases and an injury rate of 19.1 per 100,000 workers over the period.
The four traditionally higher-risk sectors and industries – construction, transportation & storage, manufacturing & marine – all saw more fatal injuries in the first half of the year, compared with the preceding six months.
Collectively, they contributed to 82 per cent of all fatal injuries in the first half of the year, said MOM.
Vehicular-related fatal accidents – one of the top two causes of workplace fatalities – have been rising over the last one and a half years, MOM noted, calling it a "worrying trend".
As such, the recent mandatory safety time-out from 1 to 15 September targeted companies in high-risk industries with a higher number of fatalities as well as 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 they were found to be non-compliant.
Decline in reported major, minor injuries
Overall, the total number of reported workplace injuries – including fatalities, major and minor injuries – in the first half of this year dropped to 10,429, falling 4.5 per cent from 10,915 and 7.5 per cent from 11,271 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively. This was due to a decline in the number of major and minor injuries, said MOM.
The major injury rate per 100,000 workers for the first half of this year fell to 8.7, from 8.9 and 9.6 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively.
This is lower compared with pre-COVID levels, said MOM, noting that there were 297 major injuries in the first half of this year, compared with 294 and 316 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively.
"However, major injuries are still a concern as they reflect persistent safety lapses at workplaces," said MOM.
There were fewer minor injuries in the first half of the year at 10,104, compared with 10,607 and 10,932, in the second half and first half of last year, respectively. The six-month injury rate per 100,000 workers dropped to 296 in the first half of the year, lower than 322 and 331 in the second half and first half of last year, respectively.
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 10,104 minor injuries.
From January to mid-September, MOM said it issued 63 stop-work orders to worksites in the construction industry with unsafe conditions and practices that posed imminent danger to workers.
They included a full stop-work order imposed on Wah Khiaw Developments on 11 August, where multiple unsafe practices were found, including workers observed to be working at heights without barricades or fall arrest systems, unsafe formworks and unsafe means of access.
In addition, the company was issued fines amounting to $15,000 for breaches found.
A full stop-work order was also issued to construction company KG Plasterceil on 6 September for multiple unsafe scaffolds and unsafe work at heights at the worksite.
"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," MOM said.
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