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Factsheet on Programme Based Engagement 2008


Programme-based Engagement (ProBE) is a key Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) initiative by the Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Advisory Committee (WSHAC). It targets to improve WSH standards in high-risk work areas that contribute to the bulk of workplace deaths and injuries.

2. Under ProBE, the WSHAC actively engages the industry to raise awareness of high-risk activities and build competency to help companies better manage work-related risks. Thereafter, the Ministry of Manpower will enforce to ensure that appropriate measures have been put in place to improve safety in these work areas. See Annex A for more information on the ProBE process.

3. Seven high-risk work areas were targeted since the introduction of ProBE in 2006. These areas are work on scaffolds, work in confined spaces, work in the metalworking industries, work at heights, forklift operations, use of lifting equipment and work in noisy environment. During this period, more than 5,000 companies were engaged through ProBE activities. The programme has succeeded in heightening awareness, building capabilities and reducing work-related fatalities in many of the identified areas. In three areas - work on scaffolds, work in the metalworking industry and work in confined spaces, we saw a 33% drop in the number of fatalities from 15 in 2005 to 10 in 2006.

Outcomes of ProBE 2007

4. ProBE 2007 had focused on Work at Heights, Forklift Operation and Use of Lifting Equipment. As a result of ProBE efforts, these areas saw a 22% drop in the number of fatalities from 45 in 2006 to 35 in 2007. But we still need to improve the safety standards in other areas such as Work at Heights and Lifting Equipment which continue to adversely impact the fatality numbers. Arising from its enforcement, MOM shared the following observations with industry stakeholders to help improve safety performance in these areas.

5. For Work at Heights, 463 inspections were carried out from March to June 2007. Arising from these inspections, 12 Stop Work Orders and 344 composition fines were issued. The top five contraventions which accounted for 65% of all contraventions were:

  • Absence of an effective barrier to prevent falls through an open side or opening;
  • Failure to conduct assessment of the safety and health risks posed by the work;
  • Absence of toe-boards and guard-rails;
  • Absence of stairs and ladders for access from one level of a scaffold to another; and
  • Failure to provide safe means of access to or egress from the workplace.

6. For the ProBE on Forklift Operation, 405 inspections were carried out from July to September 2007. More than half of the workplaces inspected lacked proper risk assessments and were asked to conduct and document risk management for their forklift-related work. The top four contraventions, accounting for more than 97% of total contraventions, were:

  • Failure to conduct assessment of the safety and health risks posed by the work;
  • Failure to implement measures to minimise the risk, e.g.
    • Lack of proper measures to prevent unauthorised use of forklifts by untrained workers.
    • Inadequate or lack of a safe work procedure for workers working around forklifts.
  • Failure to ensure that machinery or equipment are safe and without risks to the health of every person within the premises, e.g.
    • No proper maintenance regime for forklifts, resulting in poorly maintained forklifts with faulty beacon or reverse-lights and balding tyres etc.
    • Inadequate workplace traffic management where there is poor segregation of forklifts and human traffic at the workplaces.
  • Forklift operated by persons who had not attended a training course conducted by approved training institutions.

7. For the ProBE on use of Lifting Equipment, 292 inspections were carried out from October 2007 to January 2008. Arising from these inspections, 196 composition fines were issued. The top five contraventions which accounted for 67% of total contraventions, were:

  • Failure to conduct assessment of the safety and health risks posed by the work;
  • Failure to subject lifting gear to examination by authorised examiner before used;
  • Failure to keep a register with respect to lifting gears, lifting appliances and lifting machines;
  • Failure to ensure that lifting gear is of good construction, sound material, adequate strength and free from patent defect and properly maintained; and
  • Failure to subject lifting appliance and lifting machines to examination by authorised examiner at regular intervals.

ProBE Priorities in 2008

8. The high-risk work areas identified for ProBE 2008 are (1) Machines Dangerous to Hands, (2) Flammable and Hazardous Substances and (3) Work at Heights.

Machines Dangerous to Hands

9. In both 2006 and 2007, there were more than 160 permanent disablement cases reported by employers under the WSH (Incident Reporting) Regulations. This is an increase from 94 in 2005 which was reported by factories under the Factories Act (see figure 1)1. Permanent disablements involve amputation of limbs that is irreversible, debilitating and greatly impacts the affected workers.

10. In 2007, 94% of reported permanent disablement cases involved hands/fingers (see Figure 2). Analysis showed that most cases arise from work involving machines that are potentially hazardous for workers' hands. ProBE 2008 will therefore focus on improving the safe use of these machines, such as power presses, cutting, bending, stamping and woodworking machines. Workplaces that commonly use these machines include those in the metalworking sector, engineering workshops, construction worksites, furniture factories and food manufacturing factories (see figure 3).

Figure 1 - Workplace Permanent disablements, 2005 to 2007

Body Part Injured 2006 2007
Total 168 163
Upper Limb 155 154
Hands (including fingers) 149 150
Shoulder/Arm 1 4
Multiple Locations 5 -
Lower Limb 13 9
Foot (including toes) 8 6
Leg (including ankle) 2 3
Multiple Locations 3 -

Figure 2: Number of Permanent Disablements by Body Part Injured, 2006 and 2007

Industry No. of Permanent Disablements in 2007
All Sectors 163
Construction 35
Shipbuilding and Ship Repair (SSR) 18
Manufacturing (excluding SSR) 72
Metalworking 30
Manufacture of Food Products 11
Manufacture of Non-metallic Mineral Products 5
Manufacture of Furniture 7
Other manufacturers 19
Other Sectors 38

Figure 3: Number of Permanent Disablements in Selected Industries, 2007

Work at Heights

11. Work at Heights will continue to be a ProBE priority area in 2008. Two key trends point to the need to focus on this area. Firstly, fatal accidents resulting from Work at Heights remains the top cause of workplace fatalities in 2007. This was despite a drop in the percentage contribution to all workplace fatalities from 39% of workplace fatalities in 2006 to 36.5% in 2007 (see figure 4). Secondly, the construction industry, which contributed to 60.9% of fatal accidents resulting from Work at Heights, is expected to see continued robust growth in 20082 and beyond (see figure 5). The construction boom and the high-rise nature of Singapore's construction work point to the need to improve awareness and build capabilities on working safely at heights.

12. A new approach will be adopted in this year's "Work at Heights Campaign". Engagement efforts will extend beyond employers and safety professionals to educating supervisors and workers on the ground. Workers will be made aware of the need to follow safe work procedures and use fall protection devices in order to work safely at heights. MOM will also enhance inspection of employers to ensure they have implemented control measures as well as educated their workers on fall protection.

Type of Accident Construction Manufacturing Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Six New Sectors under WSH Act Others Total
Fall from heights 14 (60.9%) 4 (17.4%) 1 (4.3%) 1 (4.3%) 3 (13.1%) 23

Figure 5: Number of Workplace Fatalities by Type of Accident and Industry, 2007 (selected types)

Flammable and Hazardous Substances

13. As shown in figure 4, Fire and Explosion or Exposure to Harmful Substances is the third dominant accident type for workplace fatalities in 2007. It contributed to 14.3% of all workplace fatalities. As such accidents potentially impact more workers, intensive efforts will be put in to prevent fires, explosions or exposure to harmful substances.

Other priority areas in 2008


14. In 2007, three workers died as a result of demolition-related work. With the increase in demolition-related activity, especially with the construction boom and buoyant collective sales environment in the last two years, there is a need to focus efforts on improving the safety standards of demolition work.

Crane-related activity

15. Building on the momentum of ProBE 2007 on the Use of Lifting Equipment, MOM, WSHAC and the BCA will collectively step up spot checks on cranes to remind crane users of safety measures. With cranes being a common feature in most construction projects in a heavily built-up Singapore, industry stakeholders need to be constantly vigilant of the potentially hazardous nature of crane-related activities.

1 The Factories Act was replaced by the WSH Act on 1 March 2006. At the same time, the WSH (Incident Reporting) Regulations came into effect. Under the Factories Act, accidents that occurred in factories are required to be reported. The WSH (Incident Reporting) Regulations require reporting of all accidents in workplaces. These expanded reporting requirements contribute to the increase in permanent disablement cases.

2 BCA estimated that the annual construction demand is expected to reach between $19 and $22 billion in 2007, an increase of 29% from 2006. Construction demand is likely to be sustained at this high level in 2008 and 2009.