Fewer workplace deaths, but more injuries last quarter

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

Ten workers died in the last quarter, down from 14 deaths between April and June this year. To date, 34 workers have died on the job since January.

There were also 3,122 cases of minor injuries from July to September, compared with 2,958 in the previous quarter. Like in previous quarters, falls were the top cause of injuries and fatalities, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) data released yesterday.

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 fell from height and many of the fatal incidents were preventable, he said.

To that end, the MOM will step up its enforcement efforts on work-at-height activities, targeting 400 inspections from now until year end, 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 a Sim Lian Construction worksite in Bukit Panjang, where he also witnessed a safety review of the site.

The visit was part of the MOM’s mobile clinic initiative, in which companies voluntarily bring in third-party consultants to share the best practices of the industry and improve their safety processes. The clinic service, which started in 2016, is provided free and the MOM does not punish firms for any shortcomings detected during the consultations, but helps them improve. So far, 135 clinics have been conducted this year.

At the clinic yesterday, principal consultant Daryl Ong flagged several potential risks to the contractor in the spirit of helping usher in improvements.

Mr Zaqy said: “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 do it only 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 past sentences for such cases did not sufficiently deter people from breaching workplace safety rules.

Mr Zaqy said the MOM will look into Justice Chan’s judgment and see how it can take it into consideration in future.

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