Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Monday (27 April) said that Singapore recorded total of 14 workplace fatalities from 1 January to 17 April this year, compared to nine at this period last year.
The decline in work activities due to COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of non-essential workplaces during the circuit breaker, and allowing essential workers to work from home wherever possible, however, did not resulted in fewer accidents.
During the virtual launch of Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign 2020, he said, “This worrying trend reinforces the need for employers and workers to make WSH a priority and press on with efforts to improve it even during this difficult time.”
According to Mr Zaqy, WSH Council, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) partnering with National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation decided to hold WSH campaign virtually this year given the rapidly evolving situation of COVID-19.
To fight against COVID-19, the aim of WSH campaign this year is to take time to take care of the safety and health, in order to protect workers, the loved ones and ourselves from harm, he says.
Not only concerning on the workers’ safety, Mr Zaqy noted that it is now the time to focus on the workers’ health as everyone has witnessed the COVID-19 cluster that formed at a workplace could “cripple a company’s operations overnight”.
“This can be a painful and sombre lesson for the employers on how the well-being of their workers can significantly impact their business operations,” he added.
On top of practicing personal hygiene and safe distancing, Mr Zaqy urged employers and workers to maintain healthy lifestyles during this critical time, such as stay hydrated, have sufficient rest and exercise regularly.
Meanwhile the workers who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension should also listen to doctors’ advice on how to manage the illnesses.
Employers also urged to share the WSH Council’s Campaign CARE Kit – comprising useful health tips and reminders – with the workers who are working from home.
Noting the importance of “deepening WSH ownership”, Mr Zaqy said that this is premised on a culture of care, trust and prevention.
He explained, “This pandemic highlighted more vividly the need for employers and employees alike to stay united, show mutual care, and trust that each of us will play our part to fight this virus.”
He urged companies to review and improve their WSH systems and processes during this “lull period” by equipping workers with new WSH skills through training, which could help them better prepared to meet work demands when operations resume at workplaces.
As many companies learned the importance of technology and digitalisation at workplaces amid COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Zaqy also encouraged companies to press on with transformation efforts by exploring and tapping on technologies to improve workplace safety and health performance.
He said, “We are already operating in a new norm where technology is necessary for daily business operations. When this crisis is over, companies who embrace technologies will recover faster than those that did not.”
Mr Zaqy also remarked that there is still a “silver lining” even from COVID-19’s “devastating effect” around the world, in which COVID-19 has catalysed efforts to entrench their three WSH 2028 strategies of Health, Ownership and Technology as part of business operations and sustainability.
Workplace fatalities this year
Earlier in the month of January, Ministry of Manpower has revealed that three people have died in workplace accidents since the start of 2020.
The first accident was on 8 January where a worker was crushed to death by a toppled pallet of gas cyclinders. The incident occurred when a group of workers was installing piles using a crawler crane at a construction site, according to the report by Workplace Safety & Health Council (WSH Council). As the work was being carried out, the crane operator turned the crane, toppling off a pallet of gas cylinders onto a nearby worker. Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
The second accident on 11 January involves a worker being hit by a runner that fell from a formwork structure that was being shifted by four workers, according to the WSH Council. As the form structure was being moved, a runner fell from the top, striking one of the workers – who later died at the hospital from the injury.
The third accident saw a worker falling from a tugboat into the sea.
While on 25 January which is believed to be the fourth workplace fatality, a 26-year-old Indian national worker died after falling through a false ceiling at Tampines Mall while he was cleaning the walkway above the mall’s atrium ceiling,
According to the MOM, the country saw a low number of workplace fatalities in 2019, as it dropped to 39 compared with the 41 fatalities in 2018.
However, last year, there was a five per cent increase in non-fatal injuries, which is 629 cases while eight per cent increased in minor injuries, which is 13,111 cases.