SINGAPORE - The harbour pilot from PSA Marine who died after he fell overboard in the waters off the Southern Islands on Saturday is the fifth workplace fatality in 2023.
The 29-year-old Singaporean was disembarking from a tugboat and crossing over to a pilot boat when he fell into the sea at about 3am, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said.
MOM added that it is investigating the accident and has instructed PSA Marine to appoint a workplace safety and health (WSH) auditor to conduct a thorough audit of its risk assessment and work processes.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Saturday night that its Marine Safety Control Centre was alerted to the accident at about 2.50am that same day.
A harbour pilot is a skilled professional who manoeuvres ships through dangerous or congested waters, such as harbours. The pilot was wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident.
“MPA, Police Coast Guard and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) immediately deployed patrol and emergency response craft to the scene to conduct search and rescue operations,” the MPA statement said. SCDF said it dispatched two marine vessels.
The authority also activated divers to search for the pilot and issued navigational safety broadcasts to surrounding vessels to support search efforts.
The body of the harbour pilot was recovered at about 11.30am on Saturday.
“Workers moving between vessels should keep good situational awareness, exercise extreme caution and make sure they are aware of the risks of the transfer operation,” MOM said. It added that appropriate life jackets should be donned, and that a person must maintain three points of contact when embarking or disembarking between vessels at sea.
There have been four other workplace deaths this year. On Jan 12, a 37-year-old worker from Myanmar fell four storeys from a concrete ledge while painting the facade of a condominium block in Bedok.
On Jan 19, a 66-year-old Singaporean pump attendant fell and hit his head on the ground at a petrol station in Sengkang after he was knocked down by a car.
On Jan 31, a 44-year-old man who was driving a prime mover died after his vehicle went off the pier at Keppel Terminal and fell into the sea.
On Feb 2, a 53-year-old Singaporean man, who was unloading a shipment of glass doors with two other workers at a warehouse in Alexandra, died from his injuries after nine glass doors toppled on the three of them.
There were 46 workplace deaths in 2022, the highest number reported since 2016, when there were 66 fatalities.
In 2022, MOM put in place tougher sanctions to curb the rise in workplace deaths.
This included a period of heightened safety, during which companies will be barred from hiring new foreign workers for up to three months if severe lapses are found following a serious or fatal workplace accident.
Higher penalties for breaches of WSH laws that could result in death or serious injury were introduced, with a maximum fine of $50,000, up from $20,000 previously.
This safety period, which kicked in on Sept 1, 2022, has been extended till May 31, 2023, with additional measures in place, the ministry announced on Feb 10. It was initially due to end on Feb 28.
Additional measures include a mandatory half-day training course for the chief executive, or board of directors, of companies that are found with significant WSH lapses following serious or fatal workplace accidents, as well as a national campaign, which is in the works, to urge people to report unsafe practices at workplaces.
The extension of these measures comes as the annual workplace fatality rate per 100,000 workers improved during the heightened safety period, falling from 1.5 for the period from January to August 2022, to 0.8 for the September-to-December period.