Call to target risk areas to curb workplace falls

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, flanked by the International Powered Access Federation's South-east Asia regional general manager Raymond Wat (left) and Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman John Ng, holding up stickers containing
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, flanked by the International Powered Access Federation's South-east Asia regional general manager Raymond Wat (left) and Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman John Ng, holding up stickers containing safety messages. With them were other participants of the Work at Heights Forum.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Spotlight on situations involving open sides and fragile surfaces

Of the five deaths related to workplace falls from height this year, four were due to open sides and fragile surfaces, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad yesterday.

Even as 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 added that more has to be done.

At the Work at Heights Forum 2018 held at Marina Bay Sands yesterday, Mr Zaqy noted the number of deaths due to falls from height has also dropped - from 24 in 2009, to eight last year.

"Even though the progress is encouraging, more work needs to be done," he said.

In August, the Ministry of Manpower said that of over 5,000 workplace safety and health (WSH) breaches it found in the first half of this year, the top violations included situations that created fall risks.

Given the recent fatalities, Mr Zaqy said the focus this year will be on having safety controls to eliminate or mitigate risks involving open sides, fragile surfaces and roofing works.

  • 358

    Number of injuries caused by falls from height at the workplace from January to July this year, down from 388 during the same period last year.

    8

    Number of deaths due to falls from height at the workplace last year, down from 24 in 2009.

To do so, companies can tap services offered by the WSH Council or consider using technology to reduce risks.

For example, firms can contact the WSH Council for a free session with a mobile clinic, where an appointed consultant will visit their worksites and provide 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" for work at high areas as well, where they pause their routine operations to review their activities and systems.

 
 
 

Mr Zaqy said many companies have also started using technology to reduce risks, 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'Call to target risk areas to curb workplace falls'. Print Edition | Subscribe