Singapore

46 workers lost hands or fingers in amputation accidents last year

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad says such injuries are preventable

Forty-six workers lost their hands or fingers in amputation accidents last year, mainly due to unsafe use of machinery.

Such injuries, which often have a lasting impact on the workers' lives and livelihoods, are preventable, stressed Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad yesterday when he launched this year's Safe Hands Campaign.

There were 73 such incidents in 2019.

"We need to persevere in our efforts to ensure such incidents do not recur," Mr Zaqy said, as he encouraged companies to embrace a culture of reporting near misses.

The campaign, an initiative by the Workplace Safety and Health Council, focuses on raising awareness of machinery safety and practices to avoid hand and finger injuries.

Mr Zaqy said there were 1,756 injuries due to machinery incidents last year, down from 2,262 in 2019.

But he pointed out that the drop could be due to the circuit breaker period and the suspension of business activities then.

"Overall, for the manufacturing sector, machinery incidents still account for nearly one-third of all injuries in the sector, so we must continue to press on," he said.

FATALITIES

Last month, 11 workers died in nine separate workplace accidents. Some of the fatalities involved the use of machinery such as forklifts.

"These tragic accidents provide a stark reminder that if not used properly, machines can lead to needless loss of lives, not just the loss of hands or fingers," said Mr Zaqy, urging companies to conduct a safety timeout to review their practices and assess possible risks.

He noted that while Singapore has resumed almost all its manufacturing activities since the end of the circuit breaker on June 1 last year, workplace safety and health cannot be taken for granted as companies catch up on order delays or adjust their operations.

Last year, about 560 companies pledged their commitment to enforcing greater safety.

Mr Zaqy called on more employers to take proactive steps to ensure their workers' safety.

These include installing machine guards, which prevent operators from having their hands and fingers caught between moving parts, or light curtains, which are sensors that can detect if one's fingers get too close to the moving parts.

Mr Zaqy also touched on workplace health issues, from chronic problems to infectious diseases such as Covid-19.

He said a stressful work environment may lead to lapses as distracted workers may lack focus.

Similarly, workers with poorly managed chronic diseases may find difficulty getting rest and feel drained doing simple tasks, he said.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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