A total of seven workplace casualties have been recorded so far in February alone, making it an “extremely alarming” number compared to 30 deaths for the entire 2020, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in a Facebook post on Monday (22 February).
He added that this is a “worrying trend” for the year ahead, noting that these accidents occurred across various industries including construction, transportation and storage and marine.
The spike in accidents prompted the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd to issue a call for a Safety-Time Out (STO) on the use of machinery. A STO requires reviewing activities and procedures.
In the post, Mr Zaqy noted that employers and workers should reassess their workplaces and safety procedures as these incidents could have been avoided.
“These incidents could have been prevented with adequate risk assessment of the workplace, and proper safety procedures in place. In particular, there were two cases where both deceased operated a boom lift and a forklift, even though they were untrained and unauthorised,” he said.
He continued, “Contractors using such heavy machinery must ensure that only trained and authorised personnel are allowed to operate them. Keys to these machines should not be left unattended within the machines.”
The Senior Minister also asserted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will not hesitate to impose strict enforcement actions against firms who fail to have “proper measures in place to safeguard the safety and health of their employees”.
“Actions will also be taken against any worker who are caught operating any machinery or equipment that they are not authorised or trained to operate. In the case of foreign workers, such actions may include cancellation of their work passes.”
Cases in February 2021
As for the seven accidents that happened this month, three involved workers who fell from height, three who were caught between objects, and one who was involved in a work-related traffic accident, said the WSH Council in a different Facebook post.
In one of the accidents, a plasterer was found unconscious and slouched against the control panel of his boom lift. He was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead there, according to an accident alert issued by the council. The unfortunate accident happened on 1 February.
In another incident on 10 February, a company director was supervising construction at a residence when he fell through a floor opening. He landed on a staircase about 4.7m below him. The man died at the scene.
MOM is investigating both the accidents.
WSH Council chairman John Ng voiced his concerns and expressed that these fatal accidents could have been prevented if proper risk assessments were conducted, and if everyone followed strictly to safe work procedures.
“I am gravely concerned with this spate of seven fatal workplace accidents that is unprecedented and the absolute unnecessary loss of lives. These accidents can be prevented if proper risk assessments had been carried out, and site personnel adhere strictly to safe work procedures.
“I call on all employers to do a Safety Time-Out especially on the use of machinery, to assess and review existing safety provisions and implement immediate necessary measures to uphold good safety practices,” he said.