Falling from height is top cause of workplace deaths in 2022

The number of deaths so far this year is the highest recorded in the same period since 2016. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Falling from a height is the top cause of the 29 workplace deaths this year, 11 of which involved falls.

The 11 cases comprised seven workers who fell from a height, two who fell into the sea while working on marine vessels, one who fell when alighting from a vehicle and another who slipped and tripped at the workplace.

The figures were released on Thursday (July 14) at a workplace safety forum.

The number of deaths so far this year is the highest recorded in the same period since 2016, when 42 workers died in the first six months of the year.

The top cause of fatalities this year is fall from heights, with seven deaths, including the owner of a renovation firm who died in May after he fell through the false ceiling board of a shophouse in Geylang.

The other top causes of workplace deaths are vehicular incidents and equipment/structure failure.

While investigations into workplace accidents often show human error as the cause, attributing blame is not very useful, said Mr Goh Chin Keong, deputy director of investigations and inspectorate specialists at the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), at the event.

"I think the important thing is to think of ways to remove hazards and remove all this risk through engineering, technology and design for safety," he said.

He was speaking to around 800 people, including representatives from various companies and registered workplace safety and health (WSH) officers, at the Target Zero Falls Forum. It was held at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East.

Organised by the WSH Council, the one-day forum featured presentations from industry experts on best practices related to working at heights, which include working on fragile surfaces, ladders and roofs. They also spoke about slip, trip and fall hazards at the workplace.

The forum came just days after the most recent workplace fatality, which occurred last Thursday, when a construction worker died in a forklift accident at a Build-To-Order project site in Choa Chu Kang.

The worker was caught between the forklift's canopy and an overhead beam when the forklift suddenly moved backwards.

Besides the figures on workplace deaths, Mr Goh also shared in his speech photos from recent MOM inspections, as well as recommendations on how to prevent such accidents from occurring.

Showing a picture where equipment and loose wires were haphazardly left on the floor of a workplace - a tripping hazard - he said: "We spend most of our waking hours in our workplaces, more than we spend at home. (While) this is not what we want to see at home, I don't know why it is happening in our workplaces."

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who was the guest of honour at the event, said: "These past few months have served as a sombre reminder that workplace safety and health should not be neglected."

In his opening address, he outlined a number of steps the Government was taking in the light of the recent deaths.

These included reviewing the current demerit points system, under which errant companies can be blacklisted from hiring work permit holders, and standardising the disqualification criteria used for public construction tenders, which would disqualify unsafe firms from competing for government contracts.

He also highlighted some of the WSH Council's resources and programmes available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

These include the free StartSafe programme, which helps SMEs identify workplace safety and health risks and implement good safety practices, and the WSH Assistance Visits programme, which deploys consultants on-site to guide companies on how they can improve safety.

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