Vehicular accidents top cause of workplace deaths in first half of 2021

The construction sector and the transportation and storage sector each accounted for seven deaths in the first half of this year. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - Vehicular accidents were the top cause of workplace deaths in the first half of this year, according to mid-year statistics on workplace safety and health released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (Oct 8).

Twenty-three workers died on the job between January and June, six of them in accidents involving vehicles.

Four who died were delivery or dispatch riders, of whom three were killed due to other negligent road users.

A work group comprising the Workplace Safety and Health Council, the National Delivery Champions Association and companies such as Grab and SingPost has been formed to discuss how to reduce these deaths, MOM said.

Emerging technology solutions such as collision alert systems and rider behaviour monitoring systems will also be put on a trial at logistics and food delivery firms, the ministry added.

A two-month enforcement operation on vehicular safety will also be conducted from this month, targeting sectors where workplace traffic hazards are common, such as the transportation and storage sector, construction and manufacturing.

The construction sector and the transportation and storage sector each accounted for seven deaths in the first half of this year - making up 60 per cent of all workplace fatalities during this period.

Meanwhile, there were four deaths in the manufacturing sector, including the three who died in the explosion at an industrial building in Tuas in February.

Since July, there have been at least seven other workplace deaths, bringing this year's tally to at least 30.

In comparison, there were 30 workplace deaths in the whole of last year, with 13 deaths in the second half.

MOM said it is paying close attention to the manufacturing industry, which had a six-month workplace fatality rate of 1.0 per 100,000 workers, compared with 0.8 per 100,000 workers in the second half of last year.

The sector also had the highest number of non-fatal injuries between January and June, with 80 major injuries and 1,364 minor injuries.

MOM also noted that the six-month workplace fatality rate for the construction industry rose from 1.2 per 100,000 workers to 1.7 per 100,000 workers.

The six-month fatality rate in the transportation and storage industry rose even more, from zero per 100,000 workers in the second half of last year to 2.8 per 100,000 workers in the first half of this year.

Mr Silas Sng, commissioner for workplace safety and health and the divisional director of MOM's occupational safety and health division, said: "The spate of fatal accidents this year, including February's explosion in Tuas that resulted in multiple casualties, serves as a reminder of the catastrophic consequences when safety practices are ignored or compromised."

Overall, there were 6,411 workplace injuries in the first half of this year, up from 6,293 in the previous six months. MOM attributed the rise to the gradual resumption of workplace activities since the second quarter of last year.

There were 312 major injuries and 6,076 minor injuries, with slips, trips and falls continuing to be the top cause for these injuries.

The workplace injuries rate in the first half of this year is comparable with pre-pandemic levels, MOM said.

In a Facebook post on Friday, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong called for an in-depth study to assess whether the incentive structures of gig economy platforms should be regulated so that gig workers do not risk their lives while rushing to meet their targets.

He also expressed concern about the sharp rise in workplace injuries in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, and the fact that workplace fatalities have continued unabated.

"Is the backlog of work causing fatigue among workers? Has Covid-19 affected the mental health of workers, causing them to lose focus at the workplace? Do we need to provide workers, especially those who have been away from the work site for an extended period of time, with a safety reorientation programme?" he wrote.

"We need to seriously examine the root causes of these accidents in order to prevent more deaths from happening," he added, urging workers to go to their unions for help if they have safety concerns at work.

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