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Crane at the worksite of Sant Ritz Condominium off Tai Thong Crescent in Potong Pasir fell over (Source : Tan Chuan-Jin Facebook).

Minister of Manpower: 48 lives lost so far, due to work accidents in 2016

Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say said the workplace fatality rate went up this year as 48 people lost their lives so far during the year of 2016. He made the comment during the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Conference 2016 held at Suntec City Convention Centre.

Mr Lim stated that in 2004, the workplace fatality rate was 4.9 per 100,000 employed persons. The government launched WSH 2018 to bring the fatality rate to 1.8 by 2018 to be on par with developed countries’ standards, such as Australia and Japan.

However, the improvement in performance was not sustained that the fatality rate went up from 1.8 in 2014 to 1.9 last year. This year, the fatality rate may even hit 2.2.

Mr Lim stated that the government needs to improve in three key areas. The first one is the fatality in construction sector which accounted 40% of total workplace fatalities this year, 19 deaths out of 48. He added that 7 in 10 of the fatalities could be attributed to lapses in planning and execution of work activities, while 9 in 10 cases happened because workers adopted the wrong or unsafe behaviour.

"Some construction companies have also accepted WSH infringements as unavoidable. They even set aside 'safety budgets' to cover the enforcement fines," he said.

The second area is the workers' health. In the last three years, one-third of all work-related fatality cases involved workers with existing medical conditions such as heart disease and hypertension; the conditions were aggravated by their work activities.

The third is accidents involving elderly who is 55-year-old and older. The percentage has gone up by about two percents a year in recent years. This now accounts for 18 percent of all incidents in the first semester of the year. The incidents involving elderly could have been prevented if the job was re-designed to take into consideration of the physical abilities.

He stated that the government is set to lay a firmer foundation to sustain improvement for the future by identifying three priorities.

First, he stated that companies should take greater ownership by identifying workplace safety and health risks upstream, setting performance targets and encouraging reporting of any workplace safety and health incidents. While the Government has to support and encourage this by incorporating more safety considerations into public construction tenders.

Second, the analysis showed that workers with less than 1-year experience are almost twice more likely to be involved in fatal incidents. The Government will work with the industry to professionalise the WSH Officers and develop a career progression pathway to attract and retain better talents, and enhance the training curriculum and facilities to simulate real-life working conditions using virtual simulators.

Third, everyone has to work safely together, from government, to unions, companies, management, supervisors and workers. Collective WSH ownership means everyone has to embrace the same mindset of not just reducing workplace fatalities, but also preventing all work-related injuries and ill-health.