While the collapse of the upcoming Pan-Island Expressway viaduct last month cast a dark shadow over workplace safety, official statistics released yesterday show a plunge in workplace deaths and injuries in the first half of this year.
There were 19 deaths, a dive from the 42 recorded in the same period last year. Similarly, the number of injured workers slipped from 6,245 to 6,151 in the same period.
Still, the authorities are working on further reducing the numbers, which do not include the one dead and 10 hurt in the viaduct tragedy.
The Ministry of Manpower is reviewing the Workplace Safety and Health Act to, among other things, introduce stronger measures to deter worksite accidents andraise the maximum penalties for offences that result in serious injuries or deaths.
The review started earlier this year and is expected to be completed by the year-end.
Meanwhile, the first-half figures from the ministry and Workplace Safety and Health Institute show that seven, or more than one-third, of the 19 deaths took place in manufacturing (five deaths) and construction (two deaths).
The top two causes of death were accidents involving vehicles on public roads or at worksites, and falls from a height.
Seven workers died in such traffic accidents, compared with 10 in the same period last year, while four died after falling from ladders or tripping over objects, compared with 16 last year.
Two workers have also died in fires and explosions so far this year.
Workplace Safety and Health Institute executive director Gan Siok Lin wants greater focus on "vehicular safety", given the higher number of deaths from such accidents.
Most of the workers hurt at their workplace suffered minor injuries such as bruises and sprains. In the first half of this year, there were 5,864 minor injuries, compared with 5,914 last year.
Those who suffered major injuries, such as fractures after they stumbled or fell in their workplace, totalled 268, compared with 289 in the same period last year.
Despite the decline in deaths and injuries, the workplace has grown more hazardous in another respect.
The number of occupational disease cases rose from 391 to 467.
The top three occupational diseases were hearing loss, work- related musculoskeletal problems and skin diseases.
The spike "suggests that more effort is needed to manage health hazards in the workplace", Dr Gan said.
Yesterday, the ministry said it conducted 2,800 spot checks at worksites and factories between January and June this year.
It uncovered 4,300 workplace safety and health violations, and 28 companies were ordered to stop operations, each for an average of four weeks, to correct their lapses.
Fines totalling $500,000 were imposed on 190 companies on the spot.
The ministry warned that it will continue to target three areas in its spot checks.
These are: traffic safety at construction sites, factories and warehouses; the safety of those working at heights in construction sites, factories and shipyards; and the safe operations of machinery at construction sites and factories.