While the Pan-Island Expressway viaduct collapse last month cast a dark shadow over workplace safety awareness, official statistics released by Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Aug 2) reveal a plunge in workplace deaths and injuries in the first half of 2017.
According to the report, there were 19 cases of death in the workplace – less than half from the 42 recorded in the same period last year. Similarly, the number of injured workers also slipped from 6,245 to 6,151 in the same period. However, the one dead and 10 hurt in the viaduct tragedy have yet to be included in the data.
Despite the statistics showing positive trends, the authorities keep working on further initiatives to reduce the numbers. MOM is reviewing the Workplace Safety and Health Act to introduce stronger measures to prevent worksite accidents, as well as raising the maximum penalties for offences that result in serious injuries or worker’s deaths.
Started earlier this year, the review is expected to be completed and ready by the year-end, Straits Times reports.
The first-half figures from the ministry and Workplace Safety and Health Institute show that manufacturing and construction remain to be prone to worksite accidents, as more than one-third of the 19 deaths took place in the sectors. Top two causes of death were accidents involving vehicles on public roads or at worksites, and falls from a height such as PIE collapse case.
Seven workers were reportedly died from traffic accidents, compared with 10 in the same period last year, while four died after falling from ladders or tripping over objects, compared with 16 last year.
Meanwhile, two workers have also died in fires and explosions so far this year.
Workplace Safety and Health Institute executive director Gan Siok Lin said that improving “vehicular safety” will be the focus, considering the higher number of deaths from such accidents.
Most of the workers injured at their workplace suffered minor wounds such as bruises and sprains. In the first half of this year, there were 5,864 minor injuries, compared with 5,914 last year.
In the meantime, 268 workers were suffered major injuries, such as fractures after they stumbled or fell in their workplace this year, compared with 289 in the same period last year.
Despite the decline in deaths and injuries, it should be noted that the workplace has grown more hazardous in some aspects.
This is proven by the number of occupational disease cases that rose from 391 to 467. The top three occupational diseases included hearing loss, work- related musculoskeletal problems and skin diseases.
The figure “suggests that more effort is needed to manage health hazards in the workplace”, Dr Gan said.
MOM stated that it had conducted 2,800 spot checks at worksites and factories between January and June this year.
In the inspection, 4,300 workplace safety and health violations were uncovered, with 28 companies were ordered to stop operations, each for an average of four weeks, to correct their lapses. Fines totalling $500,000 were also imposed on 190 companies on the spot.
The ministry warned that it will continue to target three areas in its spot checks, which include traffic safety at construction sites, factories and warehouses; the safety of those working at heights in construction sites, factories and shipyards; and the safe operations of machinery at construction sites and factories.