SINGAPORE —  Manpower Minister Dr Tan See Leng has shared that 15 companies were found with serious Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) lapses following serious or fatal workplace incidents in their workplace since the start of the 6-month Heightened Safety Period (HSP) in September 2022.

These companies were debarred from hiring new foreign employees for up to three months, and their Chief Executive Officers had to personally account to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to take responsibility for the rectifications, he said.

“More than 760 composition fines and a total of 48 Stop Work Orders (SWOs) have been issued to errant companies thus far. The Ministry is working closely with these companies to ensure that the WSH lapses are rectified.”

Dr Tan was replying in a written answer to parliamentary questions filed by Members of Parliament, Christopher de Souza and MP Melvin Yong yesterday (6 February) on MOM measures to ensure good safety protocols to prevent worksite accidents.

Melvin Yong asked the minister about measures taken by MOM to ensure hoisting operations in the workplace are carried out safely for the workers involved, in view of recent workplace fatalities involving hoisting operations.

Four fatal workplace incidents were recorded in December 2022 alone, including a Bangladeshi worker who died while hoisting a tree trunk earlier this month, and a 32-year-old Indian national who died after being crushed by a crane at a construction site at Tengah.

60% fatalities related to falls from height, vehicular incidents and crane operation

Dr Tan said, based on the MOM’s inspections conducted last year, some of the commonly observed contraventions include failure to ensure lifting equipment were properly tested and examined by authorised examiners before use, lack of planning and establishment of lifting procedures, and non-compliance to lifting plans.

There were 46 workplaces fatal incidents recorded in 2022, with a fatality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 workers in 2022, compared to 1.1 per 100,000 workers in both 2021 and 2019 (pre-covid).

He said 80 per cent of all fatal and major injuries were from the traditionally higher-risk industries – Construction, Manufacturing, Transportation & Storage, and some services industries.

While falls from height, vehicular incidents and crane-related incidents accounted for more than 60 per cent of all fatalities.

inadequate control measures or safety procedures

“The main reasons for these fatalities were inadequate control measures or safety procedures, poor implementation of control measures and unsafe behaviours by workers. ”

He stressed that these are preventable safety lapses and the ultimate root causes are that management accountability, incentives and training for WSH need strengthening.

Nonetheless, Dr Tan said the HSP measures have helped to abate the spate of workplace fatalities, with the annualised fatality rate per 100,000 workers reducing significantly from 1.5 for January-August 2022, which was before HSP, to 0.8 for September-December 2022.

“This suggests that with sufficient resolve, the industry can keep the fatality 5 rate below 1.0 per 100,000 workers, which is our WSH 2028 aspiration – thus far, only four countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have achieved this fatality rate.”

The major injury rate per 100,000 workers saw improvements, from 18.5 in 2021 and 18.1 in 2019 to 17.3 in 2022, Dr Tan said.

However, he added that more needs to be done to achieve Singapore’s WSH 2028 target of less than 12.0 per 100,000 workers, as the annualised major injury rates worsened during HSP.

Monthly average number of major injuries in manufacturing, transportation & Storage and higher-risk services industries worsen

“The impact of HSP across the higher-risk industries is also varied. Construction saw the most improvement, where the monthly average number of fatal and major injuries decreased during HSP.”

He revealed that the monthly average number of major injuries for manufacturing, transportation and storage, and higher-risk services industries worsened during HSP.

MOM considering extension of HSP

In response to a higher rate of workplace fatalities, MOM had called for a six-month period of heightened safety from 1 September 2022 to 28 February 2023.

MP Melvin Yong asked the MOM whether the Ministry intends to extend the HSP.

In reply, Dr Tan said MOM is reviewing the next steps when HSP ends in February.

“Extension of HSP is being considered as well as further measures to strengthen and entrench WSH incentives and culture.”

Total of 46 workplace fatal incident recorded in 2022, three workplace deaths since the start of 2023

In 2022, a total of 46 workplace fatal incident were recorded, exceeding the 37 deaths in the whole of 2021.

It is also the highest number since 2016, which recorded 66 workplace fatalities. There were 30 workplace deaths in 2020 and 39 in 2019.

There have been three workplace deaths in January 2023 alone:

On Jan 12, a 37-year-old worker from Myanmar, died after he fell four storeys from a ledge that he had climbed onto. He was painting the facade of Waterfront Isle condominium in Bedok at the time and wearing a body harness, but it was not anchored.

On Jan 19, a 66-year-old Singaporean pump attendant was knocked down by a car that was leaving the petrol station at Sengkang East Road, causing him to fall and hit his head. He died from his injuries on Jan 23.

On Jan 31, a 44-year-old Malaysian prime mover driver employed by freight forwarding company Handling System died after his vehicle fell into the sea at Keppel Terminal.



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