Concern as workplace deaths hit 14 so far this year

This is up from 9 in same period in 2019; Zaqy Mohamad urges firms to use downtime now to boost safety, health

A sign reminding workers to pay attention to safety at Kim Chuan Depot. Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said employers and workers need to press on with efforts to improve workplace safety and health, in remarks shared on video for yester
A sign reminding workers to pay attention to safety at Kim Chuan Depot. Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said employers and workers need to press on with efforts to improve workplace safety and health, in remarks shared on video for yesterday's launch of the National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A total of 14 workplace deaths were recorded in Singapore this year from Jan 1 to April 17, up from nine in the same period last year.

"This worrying trend reinforces the need for employers and workers to make workplace safety and health a priority, and press on with efforts to improve it even during this difficult time," said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad yesterday.

He urged companies to use the Covid-19 downtime to improve their workplace safety and health systems and processes, such as by tapping the Workplace Safety and Health Council's training materials and leveraging technologies to boost safety and health performances, and for workers and employers to focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Mr Zaqy's remarks were shared on video for the launch of the National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign 2020, which was conducted virtually because of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

While on-site operations at non-essential-service workplaces have been halted since the start of circuit breaker measures on April 7, the majority, or 12, of these workplace fatalities took place between January and March.

The fatalities included a worker for transport operator SMRT who died on March 23, when an accident occurred while he was operating a hydraulic press machine.

On March 11, a worker fell after being hit by a rudder, which was being installed at the rear of a marine vessel, and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

In January, a worker died after falling through a false ceiling in Tampines Mall.

The industries in which these workplace deaths occurred include construction and manufacturing, as well as logistics and transport, according to the Manpower Ministry.

Singapore saw 39 workplace deaths last year, the lowest since records were first compiled in 2004, although there was a rise in the number of injuries suffered at work.

Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman John Ng highlighted that companies play an important role in caring for workers' safety and health.

More than 68,000 workers from 78 companies to date have access to safety advice and health programmes, such as information on chronic disease management, at their workplaces, he noted.

The fatalities included a worker for transport operator SMRT who died on March 23, when an accident occurred while he was operating a hydraulic press machine.
​On March 11, a worker fell after being hit by a rudder, which was being installed at the rear of a marine vessel, and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
In January, a worker died after falling through a false ceiling in Tampines Mall.

Mr Ng encouraged firms to apply technology to their businesses in areas such as training for workers, adding that the council has compiled training materials which address common workplace hazards.

"I do not know how long the pandemic will continue, but I would like to encourage companies to get their workers to learn from home during this period," he said, urging them to make the best use of the Covid-19 downtime.

The campaign, now in its third consecutive year, is organised by the council, along with its tripartite partners - the Manpower Ministry, the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress.

An electronic kit with tips on disease and lifestyle management has been developed as part of this year's campaign, and can be found at the campaign's website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2020, with the headline 'Concern as workplace deaths hit 14 so far this year'. Subscribe