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Fewer workplace fatalities in 2018, but number of non-fatal injuries grew

  1. The number of workplace fatalities fell slightly from 42 in 2017 to 41 in 2018, a record low in workplace fatalities. This continues the trend of declining workplace fatalities since the Workplace Safety and Health Act was enacted in 2006. The workplace fatal injury rate has reduced by more than 60% from 3.1 in 2006 to 1.2 in 2018. The improvements have been achieved through making companies and individuals liable for safety outcomes, rather than observing prescriptive standards, imposing stiffer penalties and extensively engaging and educating industries.
  2. Falls from height, slips, trips and falls, and vehicular-related incidents remained the top causes of fatal injuries in 2018, although the number of vehicular-related fatal incidents halved in 2018 compared to 2017. There were fewer workplace fatalities in the manufacturing and transport and storage sectors in 2018 compared with 2017. However, more workplace fatalities occurred in the construction sector and it remained the top contributor of workplace fatal injuries.

    Overview of workplace injuries & occupational diseases
  3. While there were fewer workplace fatalities, there were 22 more major injuries and 291 more minor injuries in 2018 compared to 2017. Conversely, the number of dangerous occurrences and occupational diseases decreased by 34% and 30% respectively from 2017 to 2018.

    Table 1: Number of workplace incidents
      2016 2017 2018
    Overall Workplace Injuries 13,014 12,498 12,810
    • Fatal Injuries
    66 42 41
    • Major Injuries
    594 574 596
    • Minor Injuries
    12,354 11,882 12,173
    Dangerous Occurrences 45 35 23
    Occupational Diseases 732 799 563
  4. Fatalities in the traditionally higher risk industries of transport & storage and manufacturing have declined. The construction industry saw a significant halving of fatalities from 2016 to 2017, but had two more fatal injuries in 2018 than in 2017. It remained as the industry with the highest number of workplace fatalities. More vigilance is needed in the wholesale trade and real estate industries, which previously had few fatal injuries.

    Table 2: Number of workplace fatal injuries by sector
      2016 2017 2018
    Construction 24 12 14
    Wholesale Trade 0 3 5
    Transportation & Storage 11 7 4
    Manufacturing 9 7 4
    Real Estate Services 0 1 4
    Marine 6 2 4
    Others 13 10 5
  5. Vehicular-related incidents were the top cause of workplace fatalities from 2013 to 2017. The number of fatalities from vehicular-related incidents halved from 14 cases in 2017 to 7 in 2018, following sustained inspection and engagement efforts. Falls from height overtook vehicular-related incidents as the leading cause of fatal injuries in 2018, although the number of falls from height fatalities remained at eight in 2018. An area of concern was the pronounced increase in major injuries from slips, trips, and falls, which were seen across a variety of industries, including those that were traditionally of lower risk.

    Table 3: Leading causes of fatal injuries
      2016 2017 2018
    Falls from Height 13 8 8
    Slips, Trips & Falls 6 4 7
    Vehicular-related incidents 22 14 7
    Collapse/Failure of Structure & Equipment 1 0 4
    Machinery-related incidents 3 1 1

    Table 4: Leading causes of major injuries
      2016 2017 2018
    Slips, Trips & Falls 173 177 203
    Machinery-related incidents 86 74 76
    Falls from Height 73 63 71
    Vehicular-related incidents 50 41 46
  6. There were 30% fewer occupational diseases in 2018 compared to 2017. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD), noise induced deafness (NID) and occupational skin diseases remained the top three occupational diseases since 2016. MOM will continue to focus its prevention efforts on these priority areas.

    Table 5: Top three occupational diseases
      2016 2017 2018
    Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders 316 337 326
    Noise Induced Deafness 322 329 163
    Occupational Skin Diseases 47 78 48
  7. MOM conducted 17,000 inspections in 2018, with close to 2,700 inspections carried out in the construction sector. More than 9,000 workplace safety and health contraventions were uncovered and 69 Stop-Work Orders (SWO) issued. The top contraventions uncovered in the construction sector were situations that created fall risks such as failure to cover or guard openings and open sides at height, and failure to provide safe means of entry and exit within the workplace, and unsafe scaffolds. These inspections ran in tandem with the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council’s National WSH Campaign, ‘Take Time to Take Care of Your Safety and Health’, which aimed to raise awareness in three key areas of concern: vehicular safety risks, falls from height risks, and machinery-related hand and finger injuries. The Campaign reached out to more than 100,000 employers and workers across industries, with companies conducting their own senior management walkabouts and WSH briefings to better engage their workers, as well as investing in technology. The MOM and the WSH Council will continue to focus efforts on the construction sector and prioritise the reduction of falls from height, slips, trips and falls, vehicular-related incidents and machinery-related incidents in 2019.
  8. Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad said, “Despite a slight dip in workplace fatalities last year, the rise in workplace injuries is a cause for concern. Some businesses may not realise the business benefits that good WSH can bring, and perceive improving WSH as costing time and money. The WSH2028 Tripartite Strategies Committee has been studying how we can align firms’ commercial interests closer to good WSH outcomes, so that more firms will be motivated to make work conditions safer and healthier. The committee’s strategies are currently being finalised and will be announced in April.”
  9. Mr John Ng, Chairman of the WSH Council and Chairman of the WSH2028 Tripartite Strategies Committee, said, “Creating a culture of prevention and trust within a company must start from the top. Only then will developers, contractors and workers fully commit to improving WSH outcomes. The WSH2028 Tripartite Strategies Committee is exploring how we can shape our business environment so that every company will be intrinsically motivated to care for their workers’ safety and health. The WSH Council will also continue to work hand-in-hand with its tripartite partners to actively engage and reach out to the employers, employees and the public sector agencies towards achieving a healthy workforce in safe workplaces.”