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Lowest Number and Rate of Workplace Fatalities In 16 Years

  1. Singapore registered a record low in number and rate of workplace fatalities in 2019, the lowest since 2004, when records were first compiled. 
  2. The total number of workplace fatalities and the workplace fatality rate decreased slightly in 2019 (39 deaths / 1.1 per 100,000 workers). However, the number of non-fatal major injuries increased by 5 percent in 2019 (629 cases / 18.1 per 100,000 workers).


    FATAL INJURIES

    ‘Collapse or Failure of Structure and Equipment’ an emerging concern

  3. The top three causes of fatal injuries, with seven cases each, were collapse or failure of structure and equipment, vehicular-related incidents, and falls from height (see Table 2 in Annex). In particular, fatalities due to collapse or failure of structure and equipment increased from four cases in 2018 to seven cases in 2019.


    MAJOR AND MINOR INJURIES

    ‘Slips, Trips and Falls’ (STFs) and ‘Machinery-Related Incidents’ remained as leading causes of major and minor injuries

  4. STFs remained the top cause of both major and minor injuries. Major and minor injuries arising from STFs increased from 3,610 in 2018 to 3,910 in 2019 (see Tables 3 and 4 in Annex). Construction workers (25 cases), drivers (23 cases), cleaners (19 cases), kitchen workers (17 cases), and security guards (10 cases) were among the occupations prone to STF major injuries. The second most common cause of major and minor injuries was machinery-related incidents, which rose from 2,127 in 2018 to 2,260 in 2019.

  5. The number of workplace minor injuries increased by 8 percent (13,111 cases / 377 per 100,000 workers) in 2019, contributing to the overall increase in workplace injuries. The top three causes of workplace minor injuries were STFs, machinery-related incidents and struck by moving objects (see Table 4 in Annex)


    INJURIES BY INDUSTRIES

    Vigilance needed in Construction, Manufacturing and Transportation & Storage industries

  6. Most industries recorded same or fewer fatalities than in 2018. These included Manufacturing which had four fatalities for the second consecutive year; Wholesale and Retail Trade which saw four fewer fatalities; and Construction had one less fatality (see Table 5 in Annex). However, Construction remains the industry with the highest number of fatalities. Inexperienced construction workers were found to be significantly more prone to fatal injuries (see Table 6 in Annex)

  7. Stakeholders in Manufacturing need to pay greater attention to workplace safety and health (WSH), as the industry saw an increased number of major injuries from 123 in 2018 to 137 in 2019. Similarly, greater vigilance is needed in Transportation and Storage. From 2018 to 2019, fatalities doubled to eight cases, while major injuries rose from 49 to 57 cases. Three of the eight fatalities involved drowning after falling overboard.

  8. In addition, major injuries have also crept up in low to medium-risk industries such as Accommodation and Food Services (from 37 cases in 2018 to 54 cases in 2019) and Wholesale and Retail Trade (from 30 cases in 2018 to 35 cases in 2019), primarily involving STFs.


    DANGEROUS OCCURRENCES AND OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES

  9. The number of dangerous occurrences (DOs)1 fell slightly from 23 cases in 2018 to 21 in 2019, which was the lowest recorded since 2011 (see Table 7 in Annex). Among the 21 DOs, 13 were due to collapse or failure of structure and equipment (eight of which were crane related). The remaining eight DOs were contributed by fires and explosion.

  10. DOs involving mobile cranes type saw a major reduction since the introduction of data loggers2 in 2015 (from 11 cases in 2015 to five cases in 2019). Construction remained the top contributor for the DOs (10 cases), followed by Marine (four cases), and Wholesale and Retail Trade (two cases).

  11. The total number of Occupational Diseases (ODs) fell from 563 cases in 2018 to 517 cases in 2019. The top three ODs were Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (293 cases), Noise Induced Deafness (169 cases) and Occupational Skin Diseases (39 cases).


    ENGAGEMENT, EDUCATION AND ENFORCEMENT       

    Stepping up enforcement efforts across all industries in 2020

  12. In 2019, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducted 17,000 inspections, which uncovered more than 8,900 WSH contraventions. The most common contraventions were unguarded openings and open sides, unsafe means of access and egress, and obstructed passageways. 58 Stop-Work Orders were issued with an average duration of six weeks. Composition fines amounting to a total of S$1,426,000 were imposed on close to 1,000 companies during this period. 

  13. Moving forward, in addition to inspections targeting higher-risk industries such as Construction, Manufacturing, Marine and Transportation and Storage, MOM will focus inspections on industries where major injuries are rising, such as Accommodation and Food Services, and Wholesale and Retail Trade. MOM is increasingly using data analytics to predict riskier companies or worksites for inspection, such as smaller construction projects, applying behavioural insights to nudge companies to improve their WSH practices, and engaging top management to explain how their accidents occurred and secure their commitment to implement a prevention plan.


    Building industry capabilities to manage WSH risks through education and engagement

  14. To enable the industries to glean timely insights into major workplace accidents and prevent recurrences, MOM will be releasing Learning Reports (LR) periodically. The first LR was published on 10 March 2020, focusing on measures that could have prevented the fatal fire at Summit Gas Systems Pte Ltd in June 2019. An upcoming LR focusing on a fatal crane incident at a Novena worksite in November 2019 will also be released later this year to alert the industry of lesser-known WSH risks.


    Measures targeting the Construction industry

  15. MOM and the WSH Council are partnering industry stakeholders to address the rising trend of structural and equipment collapse and failure by leveraging technology and building capabilities. Since mid-January 2020, six government agencies3 have committed to adopting tender requirements for new and existing lorry cranes to be installed with Stability Control System by 1 June 2020. In addition, a new Safe Lifting Clinic will be launched in July 2020 to provide practical, on-site advisory to small and medium enterprises who own or use lorry cranes for their operations. MOM and the WSH Council will also deepen industry engagement to share resources on crane safety such as the recently launched WSH Guidelines on Safe Use of Lorry Cranes.

  16. Given the higher fatality rates among inexperienced construction workers, contractors should retain as many of their experienced workers as possible.  Nonetheless, the number of inexperienced construction workers may rise with the industry’s projected output set to reach up to S$35 billion by 20234. To imbue inexperienced workers with greater WSH awareness earlier in their careers, the WSH Council will work with training providers to enhance the mandatory construction safety orientation training course (known as the “Apply WSH in Construction Sites” course) to include experiential elements5 by 2022. In addition, the WSH Council and Specialists Trade Alliance Singapore will also form a Roofing Contractors Association in 2020 to build competencies on fall prevention among roofing contractors and workers.

    Measures targeting industries with increasing major injuries, especially STFs

  17. Engendering greater ownership amongst stakeholders is key in WSH. Through campaigns and forums, the WSH Council will reach out to more than 500,000 workers in the coming year to promote WSH practices in 2020. Plans are also underway to develop the WSH capabilities of 1,000 union leaders and industrial relations officers by March 2021. To counteract the increasing occurrence of STFs, the WSH Council will expand education and engagement efforts to cleaning, food services, and security industries. For instance, the WSH Council and the Tripartite Cluster of Cleaners have introduced a WSH module for cleaners, which will become mandatory in 2022.

  18. Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health and Divisional Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division Mr Silas Sng said, “To counter the rising trend of non-fatal injuries, companies must conscientiously address slip, trip and fall risks by educating workers and implementing risk control measures. The Construction industry also needs to take ownership by inculcating safety mindsets and retaining experienced workers, who tend to be more risk-aware. If contractors have to bring in new workers, they will be subject to enhanced safety orientation requirements to level up their WSH knowledge. We will continue to work with employers, unions, WSH professionals and other government agencies to improve WSH outcomes.”

     

FOOTNOTE

  1. Incidents with a high potential for multiple fatalities.
  2. Data loggers are akin to black boxes in aircraft where key operating parameters are recorded. This allows crane owners to monitor the performance of crane operations, improve planning of lifting operations and shape the behaviour of crane operators.
  3. The six government agencies are Housing and Development Board, JTC, Land Transport Authority, MOH Holdings, National Parks Board and Public Utilities Board.
  4. Source: www1.bca.gov.sg/about-us/news-and-publications/media-releases/2020/01/08/singapore's-construction-demand-for-2020-expected-to-remain-strong
  5. Government agencies such as JTC and the Land Transport Authority have found that experiential training can simulate high-risk situations and help deepen WSH knowledge among workers.