Fewer workplace deaths, but more injuries last quarter: MOM

SINGAPORE – There were fewer workplace deaths from July to September this year compared to the previous quarter, although more workers sustained injuries.

A total of 10 workers died in the last quarter, down from 14 in April to June this year. To date, 34 workers have died on the job in 2018.

Just as in previous quarters, falls remain the top cause of injuries and fatalities. Most of the incidents came from the construction, manufacturing, and transportation and storage industries, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) data released on Wednesday (Nov 7).

While there were fewer deaths in the last quarter, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad cautioned against being complacent. Five of the deaths this year involved construction workers who had fallen from height, while many of the fatal incidents were preventable, he said.

To that end, MOM will step up its enforcement efforts on work-at-height activities, setting a target of 400 inspections from now until the end of 2018, said Mr Zaqy.

“We hope this will also drive the message to industries to take safety a lot more seriously,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to Sim Lian Construction’s worksite in Bukit Panjang, where he also witnessed a safety review of the worksite.

The visit was part of MOM’s mobile work-at-heights clinic initiative, where companies voluntarily bring in third-party consultants to share the best practices of the industry and improve their own safety processes.

The clinic service, which was started in 2016, is provided free of charge, and MOM will not penalise any contraventions found during the consultation process as it is meant to help firms strengthen their procedures and manage workplace risks. So far, 135 such clinics have been conducted this year and the target is to hold 200 by year end.

At the clinic on Wednesday, principal consultant Daryl Ong flagged several potential risks at the construction site to the contractor. This is done in the spirit of helping the contractor who may not be aware of these risks, said Mr Ong.

Said Mr Zaqy: “It’s really about building up our capabilities and competencies, and for management to take ownership (of safety). I do not want a culture where they only do it because MOM wants to enforce it. We want management to say, ‘I care for my workers and that is why I do it.'”

Last week, the High Court set out a harsher sentencing guideline for workplace safety and health violations due to negligence. Those found to be highly culpable and with a high potential of harm can expect a minimum punishment of about 16 weeks’ jail.

In his judgment, Justice Chan Seng Onn said that past sentences for such cases did not sufficiently deter people from breaching workplace safety rules. This did not fulfil the law’s intention to improve workplace safety by deterring risk-taking behaviour.

Asked about this, Mr Zaqy said the ministry will look into Justice Chan’s judgment and see how it can take it into consideration in future.

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