In 2019, the number of workplace fatalities in the country dropped to record low, but this decline is marred by the increase in minor and major non-fatal injuries.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), it will provide experiential training in a course for construction workers and it will be made mandatory by 2022. This is in order to lower the rate of workplace injuries.
Based on the data released by MOM on Wednesday (11 March), workplace fatalities in 2019 dropped to 39 or 1.1 per 100,000 workers. There were 41 fatalities in 2018, and thus last year’s figure is the lowest rate since 2004 when the figures started to be compiled.
There was a five per cent increase in non-fatal injuries in 2019 to 629 cases. Injuries leading to loss of body part or function such as blindness, amputation, fractures or conditions that necessitate medical leave for more than 20 years are usually classified as major injuries.
On the other hand, minor injuries increased by eight per cent to 13,111 cases in 2019. Minor injuries are injuries that necessitate medical leave of four days or more.
The main cause of major and minor injuries is trips, slips, and falls while the most vulnerable occupations to major injuries are security guards, construction workers, cleaners, and drivers.
Wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, accommodation, and food services sectors saw an increase in major injuries. As for storage and transport sectors, particularly the latter, fatalities doubled.
Among construction workers, those who worked less than three years experienced higher fatal injury rate compared to more experienced construction workers, according to MOM.
An experiential training component will be incorporated by MOM into the current construction orientation course on workplace safety and health for existing staff who did not pass the competency test and new construction workers. They are required to take the test at least once in two years.
High-risk situations such as falling from heights will be simulated through virtual reality technology in the experiential training.
“We believe this programme will heighten safety awareness at work sites among construction workers,” remarked the Quek Chin Tuan, Executive Manager of the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (Siso).
Later in 2020, Siso is looking to run a safe lifting clinic for lorry crane operators.
In addition, inspection and education efforts will be increased for lower risk industries like wholesale and retail trade, accommodation, and food services. For example, in 2022, a workplace safety and health module will be made compulsory.
“To counter the rising trend of non-fatal injuries, companies must conscientiously address slip, trip and fall risks by educating workers and implementing risk control measures…The construction industry also needs to take ownership by inculcating safety mindsets and retaining experienced workers, who tend to be more risk-aware,” noted Silas Sng, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health and Divisional Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.
Based on the 17,000 workplace inspections conducted by MOM, more than 8,900 contraventions have been discovered. These include unsafe means of access at work sites and obstructed passageways.
Composition fines totalling about $1.42 million were levied on approximately 1,000 companies in addition to the issuance of 58 stop-work orders.
By March 2021, the workplace health and safety capabilities of 1,000 industrial relations officers and union leaders will be developed through plans currently in place.
These initiatives have garnered the support of the Singapore Contractors Association (Scal): “Scal does not take safety for granted. We are continuing with our training programmes and outreach activities to generate greater awareness and capability building for smaller firms, including new ways to drive adoption of technology for better outcomes in workplace safety and health management.”