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Work Injuries, Temporary Disablements & Occupational Diseases Down

MOM & WSHC outline two-pronged approach to tackle standards in areas of concern

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council have released the latest WSH Statistics Report for January to June 2009. The Report shows a drop in the overall number of work injuries, including temporary disablements, as well as occupational diseases. However, the number of fatalities and permanent disablements has gone up. The workplace fatality rate also saw a slight increase from 1.4 deaths per 100,000 persons employed in the first half of 2008 to 1.5 in the first half of this year. To address this increase, MOM and WSH Council have outlined several initiatives to raise safety standards in areas of concern highlighted in the Report.

Key Highlights of WSH Statistics Report

2.   The Report shows a slight decline in overall workplace injuries from 5,274 (Jan to Jun 2008) to 5,268 in the first half of this year. Work fatalities and permanent disablements saw an increase in numbers while temporary disablements and occupational diseases saw a decline. Please refer to Table 1:

  January – June
2009 2008
Overall Workplace Injuries 5,268 5,274
Fatal 36 31
Permanent Disablement 70 59
Temporary Disablement 5,162 5,184
Occupational Diseases 252 285

Table 1

3.   The increase in the number of work fatalities is seen across various sectors. The more notable ones are construction, marine and metalworking as well as one multi-fatality case from an engineering activity . In terms of incident types, 3 in 10 of the fatalities were involved in a fall from height (30%) while 20% were struck by falling objects that include lifting activities with the use of cranes (20%). Another 20% involved workers killed by collapsed structures or equipment such as concrete slabs. Workers struck by moving vehicles (8%) and workers who tripped at work (8%) made up another 16% of the fatalities involved.

4.   In the area of permanent disablements, the construction (40%) and manufacturing sectors (36%) alone made up for 76% or 3 in 4 of such cases. Alongside high volume of construction activities, the sector saw a two-fold increase from 14 cases in the first half of 2008 to 28 cases in the first half of this year. For the detailed WSH Statistics Report, please refer to Annex.

Initiatives to address areas of concern

I)   Tackling common hazards through industry-led taskforces

5.   MOM and WSH Council have set up two industry-led taskforces to tackle the concerns of falls from height and crane lifting operations which account for more than half of the ‘struck by falling objects' cases. Both taskforces are led by key industry leaders and comprise members from relevant stakeholder groups such as industry and professional association members, suppliers and training partners. The National Crane Safety Taskforce had earlier announced its initial plans on enhancing training, outreach and technical guidance materials which are now work-in-progress. The National Work-at-Height Taskforce will be announcing its plans later this month on the implementation of Fall Protection Plans (FPP ) at all workplaces that perform work at heights.

6.   In addition to the industry-led taskforces, specific focus has been given to areas of work that have contributed to work fatalities. The WSH Council is producing a series of technical guidance materials to address issues such as workers being struck by transport equipment at work as well as slips and trips at workplaces.

II)   Sector-specific approach to improve safety standards

7.   In line with the sector-specific approach under the national 10-year strategy WSH 2018, the construction and marine sectors will see more deliberate efforts targeted at achieving long-term sustainable WSH improvements. These two sectors accounted for half of the fatalities in the first half of this year.

8.   The WSH Council's Construction and Marine Committees will heighten engagement efforts with the entire stakeholder chain in the two sectors from the top management to workers on the ground. Specifically, the Council will strengthen its collaboration with the top management of construction companies and shipyards as well as their customers and subcontractors to build stronger ownership of WSH issues and outcomes. There will be new capability building efforts to raise the competency of workers to manage safety through skills and trades training on managing work hazards such as working at height. The WSH Council is also working closely with the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) and the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) to aim for all construction and marine subcontractors to implement effective risk management over the next three years. These initiatives will help to steer the sectors towards the goal of halving their fatality rates within five years.

9.   Another two sectors see heightened efforts. In the metalworking sector, an enhanced training and certification regime for workers took effect this month to raise workers' capabilities to manage WSH issues . For the chemical sector, the WSH Council has set up a new Chemical Industries Committee. The Committee will identify gaps and champion sector-specific initiatives to raise safety management capabilities, especially for smaller set-ups, service providers and subcontractors.

Responses from MOM and WSH Council

10.   Commenting on the latest statistics report, Chairman of the WSH Council Mr Lee Tzu Yang said, "Since 2005, we have significantly reduced our work fatality rate from 4.9 per 100,000 employees in 2004 to 2.8 in 2008. However, the latest report shows that the decline in our fatality rate appears to have flattened. To bring us to the next lap of improvements, we need to nurture a strong WSH culture. Each stakeholder must not only acquire strong WSH capabilities, but must take personal ownership and responsibility to manage WSH matters, and must intervene, where needed, to ensure better WSH outcomes. We are now developing a structured culture-building programme and a culture index that will guide us in the next few years. In the meantime, we urge each industry stakeholder to look seriously at all the WSH concerns in their workplaces and take active steps to ensure that no one is subjected to unnecessary risks at work."

11.   Highlighting continued enforcement efforts to drive safety improvements, MOM's WSH Commissioner Mr Ho Siong Hin said, "The Ministry will continue to work closely with the Council in engagement and capability building strategies, while keeping our focus on enforcement efforts to target areas of concern. This includes surprise inspections such as the recent Operations Night Eagle and Seagull. Companies with poor safety performance will be put under MOM's surveillance programme over a period of time to spur them to set up strong WSH management systems. Errant employers and individuals who jeopardise the lives of workers will be taken to task. Through this two-pronged approach of enforcement and engagement, we hope that companies will see the benefit of taking greater ownership to raise their WSH standards, while saving lives and limbs."

12.   Industry stakeholders keen to find out more information about the WSH statistics and the above initiatives can check the MOM website and WSH Council website.