Sharp drop in workplace death and injuries

This article is more than 12 months old

While the collapse of the Pan-Island Expressway viaduct last month cast a dark shadow over workplace safety, official statistics released yesterday show a plunge in workplace death and injuries in the first half of this year.

There were 19 deaths - a dive from the 42 recorded in the same period last year. Similarly, the number of injured workers slipped from 6,245 to 6,151 in the same comparative period.

Still, the authorities are working on further reducing the numbers, which do not include the one death and 10 injured in the viaduct tragedy.

The Ministry of Manpower is reviewing the Workplace Safety and Health Act to, among other things, introduce stronger measures to deter worksite accidents and raise the maximum penalties for offences that result in serious injuries or deaths.

The review started earlier this year and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The first-half figures from the ministry and Workplace Safety and Health Institute showed that seven, or more than one-third, of the 19 deaths took place in manufacturing (five) and construction (two).

The top two causes of death were accidents involving vehicles on public roads or at worksites, and falls from height.

Seven workers died in such traffic accidents (10 in the same period last year) and four (16) died after falling from ladders or tripping over objects.

Two workers have also died in fires and explosions this year.

Executive director Gan Siok Lin of the Workplace Safety and Health Institute wants greater focus placed on "vehicular safety", given the higher number of deaths from such accidents.

Most of the workers hurt at work suffered minor injuries, such as bruises and sprains.

The comparative figures for this year's first-half against last year's are 5,864 versus 5,914.

Those who suffered major injuries totalled 268 compared to 289 in the same period last year.

Despite the decline in deaths and injuries, the workplace has grown more hazardous in another respect.

The number of occupational disease cases rose from 391 to 467. The top three occupational diseases were hearing loss, work-related musculoskeletal problems and skin diseases.

The spike "suggests that more effort is needed to manage health hazards in the workplace", Dr Gan said.

Yesterday, the ministry said it conducted 2,800 spot checks at worksites and factories between January and June this year.

It uncovered 4,300 workplace safety and health violations, and 28 companies were ordered to stop operations, each for an average of four weeks. Fines totalling $500,000 were slapped on 190 companies on the spot.