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Record-low workplace fatalities observed in Singapore in 2019

Last year, Singapore recorded its lowest number and rate of workplace fatalities since the first records were first compiled in 2004, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)'s latest Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Report 2019.

In total, a slight drop in the number of workplace fatalities and the workplace fatality rates was observed (39 deaths, 1.1 per 100,000 workers). However, the number of non-fatal major injuries saw a 5% increase with 629 cases (18.1 per 100,000 workers).

Fatal injuries: Construction saw the highest number in 2019

Breaking down the fatal incidences by industry, the report revealed most industries recorded the same or fewer fatalities than in 2018. For the second consecutive year, the manufacturing industry had four fatalities, while wholesale and retail trade saw four fewer fatalities.

More importantly, the construction industry once again had the highest number of fatalities, with inexperienced construction workers found to be "significantly more prone" to fatal injuries.

Among the top three causes of fatal injuries - collapse or failure of structure and equipment, vehicular-related incidents, and falls from height, which had seven cases each, the first cause was identified as an emerging concern with an increases in cases from 2018 to 2019 (four in 2018, seven in 2019).

Major & minor injuries: Slips, trips and falls among leading causes

Among the causes of major and minor injuries, slips, trips and falls (STFs), as well as machinery-related incidents, remained in the top, with the former leading the way.

Major injuries arising from STFs rose from 3,610 in 2018 to 3,910 in 2019, with construction workers (25 cases), drivers (23 cases), cleaners (19 cases), kitchen workers (17 cases), and security guards (10 cases) among the occupations prone to STF major injuries.

At the same time, machinery-related incidents saw an increase from 2,127 in 2017 to 2,260 in 2019.

Meanwhile, the number of minor workplace injuries saw an 8% increase (13,111 cases, or 377 per 100,000 workers) last year; the top three causes identified were STFs, machinery-related incidences, and getting struck by moving objects.


Dangerous occurrences & occupational diseases: Dip in numbers observed

The number of dangerous occurrences (DOs) fell slightly from 23 cases in 2018 to 21 in 2019, the lowest recorded since 2011. Among the 21 DOs, 13 were due to collapse or failure of structure and equipment (eight of which were crane-related). The remaining eight were contributed by fires and explosion.

A major reduction was also observed in the number of DOs involving mobile cranes, since the introduction of data loggers in 2015 (11 cases in 2015 vs 5 in 2019). The construction industry remained the top contributor for the DOs (10 cases), followed by marine (four cases), and wholesale and retail trade (two cases).

As for occupational diseases (ODs), the total number recorded dropped from 563 cases in 2018 to 517 cases in 2019; The top three ODs identified included work-related musculoskeletal disorders (293 cases), noise-induced deafness (169 cases) and occupational skin diseases (39 cases).

Enforcement and engagement efforts to be stepped up

In light of the above, MOM and the Workplace Safety and Health Council have announced they will be stepping up enforcement and engagement efforts in preventing recurrences.

These include:

  • Publishing 'Learning Reports' (LR) on a periodic basis.?The first LR was published on 10 March 2020, focusing on measures that could have prevented the fatal fire at Summit Gas Systems in June 2019. An upcoming LR focusing on a fatal crane incident at a Novena worksite in November 2019 will also be released later this year to alert the industry of lesser-known WSH risks.
  • Targetting industries with increasing major injuries for inspections;
  • Including?experiential training into the mandatory construction safety course by 2022;
  • Forming a Roofing Contractors Association to build fall prevention competencies;
  • Training union leaders and industrial relations officers in WSH by 2021; and
  • Rolling out mandatory WSH module for cleaners by 2022.




Lead image and infographics / MOM

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