Labour authorities worried after worker dies on first day of phase one
Two recent deaths raise question whether some businesses are 'eager to rush through work to clear backlog'
The death of a worker in an accident on Tuesday last week, the first day of phase one of the reopening of Singapore after the circuit breaker, has raised concerns about workplace safety.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad wondered if some businesses may be cutting corners on safety due to a shortage of manpower coupled with a backlog of work post-circuit breaker.
Referencing the June 2 accident, where the worker died after a fall, and another on May 28, where a driver was crushed to death between his forklift and a lorry, Mr Zaqy said both incidents were preventable.
"As businesses resume operations progressively post-circuit breaker, some may be eager to rush through work activities to clear backlog and meet project timelines," he wrote.
He added that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation would like to remind all employers and workers to "stay vigilant and ensure workplace safety and health measures are in place to protect workers from harm, even as we battle against Covid-19".
Preliminary investigations found the June 2 incident occurred while the 46-year-old Malaysian and a colleague were repairing a sawdust extractor at a carpentry company in Admiralty Street at 4.10pm.
To reach the side of the extractor, the man stood on a parapet wall but lost his footing and fell 12m to the ground.
The New Paper understands he had a traumatic arrest that caused his heart to stop. He died after he was taken unconscious to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
An MOM spokesman identified the man's employer as Inter-Team Furniture Work. The ministry has ordered a halt on repair work of the sawdust extractor pending investigations.
The May 28 incident involved a 62-year-old Singaporean forklift operator, who died after being wedged between a lorry door and his forklift.
At least 17 people, including at least two Singaporeans, have died in workplace accidents this year.
Several businesses have resumed operations after the end of the two-month circuit breaker period.
But the high number of Covid-19 infections in foreign worker dormitories has had a major impact on manpower.
Businesses are also required to implement new safe management measures on top of existing safety measures to minimise the risk of a re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community.
Labour MP Zainal Sapari, the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said the June 2 incident was "regrettable".
He told TNP: "It is important that workers are not deployed in roles they are not familiar with as the circuit breaker is lifted. Some companies may be tempted to do so as they may not have enough workers.
"Given that many workplaces are operating with reduced manpower, the safety management measures must not compromise current safety requirements."
An alert from the Workplace Safety and Health Council to industry players on Monday urged stakeholders to ensure a safe working environment.
It advised them to put in place measures to protect workers from risks such as fall from height and to carry out risk assessments before starting any work.
It also reminded companies to ensure safety measures are implemented effectively as work activities resume in phase one.
Last year, workplace fatality rates fell to an all-time low of 1.1 for every 100,000 workers, with 39 deaths recorded.
Despite the record low, authorities have stepped up checks and advisories following a spike in fatalities late last year and earlier this year.
Advising workers to follow procedures and wear suitable personal protective equipment while at work, Mr Zaqy said: "Every life is important. By taking time to take care, our workers and community can stay safe and healthy."