Landscaping worker dies while hoisting tree trunk, in 43rd workplace fatality this year

The Ministry of Manpower is investigating the accident and has ordered the worker's employer to stop all tree pruning and lifting activities. ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - A Bangladeshi worker died on Wednesday after a tree trunk that was being hoisted onto a truck was dislodged, hitting him and causing him to fall and hit his head against the pavement.

The 28-year-old man’s death takes the total number of workplace fatalities recorded in 2022 to 43 – the highest number since 2017, when there were 42 workplace deaths.

In comparison, there were 37 work-related deaths in 2021, 30 in 2020, and 39 in 2019.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday that the latest fatal accident happened in Toa Payoh East, near 1003 Toa Payoh Industrial Park, at about 3.30pm on Wednesday.

The Bangladeshi worker employed by Penta Landscape was involved in loading tree trunks onto a truck after tree pruning works. The lifting operations were carried out using a lorry crane, and as one of the tree trunks was being hoisted, it slipped from the lifting sling and hit the worker, MOM said.

The man was unconscious when he was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he died from his injuries.

MOM is investigating the accident and has ordered Penta Landscape to stop all tree pruning and lifting activities. The police, who are also probing the incident, said no foul play is suspected, based on preliminary investigations.

MOM said that as a general safety measure, all loads must be properly rigged and secured by a competent rigger before lifting operations are conducted using mobile cranes.

The latest death comes after the ministry had put in place tougher sanctions to curb a recent rise in workplace deaths.

Composition fines for offences observed during safety inspections were doubled in June, and companies have to engage external auditors to review their management systems if they have been issued stop-work orders or have had workers who suffered major injuries while on the job.

Under a six-month heightened safety period from Sept 1, 2022 to Feb 28, 2023, that was also instituted by MOM, 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.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad previously said the heightened safety period had shown promising results, with the average number of workplace deaths each month in 2022 dipping from about 4½ to two since Sept 1.

But Mr Zaqy also urged vigilance at the annual bizSafe Convention and Awards ceremony on Thursday, where he announced new measures to improve the capabilities of workplace safety and health (WSH) coordinators here.

From 2023, companies will be required to send all WSH coordinators for refresher training once every two years. This requirement will be phased in gradually, starting with the construction sector.

The training will comprise an e-learning package, followed by a one-day in-person session.

Said Mr Zaqy: “When the industry wants to, when we put our minds and resources into WSH, we can improve our safety performance to where we expect to be... We must not let deadlines lead to dead workers.”

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