5 fatal falls from heights at workplaces in 2018, most due to open sides and fragile surfaces

SINGAPORE – There have been five fatal falls from heights this year, of which four were due to open sides and fragile surfaces at the workplace, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 4).

But there have been fewer injuries caused by such falls from January to July this year – 358 cases, down from 388 cases in the same period last year, he said at the Work at Heights Forum 2018 held at Marina Bay Sands.

Over the years, the number of deaths due to falls from heights have also dropped from 24 in 2009, to eight in 2017.

“Even though the progress is encouraging, more work needs to be done,” said Mr Zaqy, who added that the focus this year will be on having safety controls to eliminate or mitigate risks involving open sides, fragile surfaces and roofing works.

To do so, companies can tap services by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council or consider using technology to reduce risks.

For example, firms can sign up for a free session with the WSH Council’s mobile clinic, where an appointed consultant will visit their worksites and provide practical guidance to supervisors and workers on how to work safely at high areas.

These consultants have visited 83 sites so far in the construction, manufacturing and healthcare sectors, said Mr Zaqy.

A message to “target zero falls” will also be spread to workers in the next three months. The WSH Council will help to encourage companies to conduct senior management walkabouts and “safety time-outs” – where they pause their routine operations to review their activities and systems relating to working at heights.

Mr Zaqy added that many companies have started using technology to reduce risks as well, with some mounting cameras around the worksite to detect activities done without proper safeguards, and others using virtual reality to train their workers.

Noting that different parties have a part to play in maintaining workplace safety, he said: “Developers and main contractors can be more discerning and procure services or products from companies with good WSH performance, to promote a culture of prevention.”

“Subcontractors, suppliers and companies can also build trust among workers by encouraging open communication,” he added. “With a culture of prevention, care and trust in place, employers will also reap productivity gains in the long run.”

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