Workplace deaths down in 1st half of 2019, but injuries up

MOM to target injury-prone industries, those with rise in major injuries in 2nd-half checks

The top causes of workplace death were falls from heights, traffic accidents, and the collapse or failure of structures and equipment. PHOTO: ST FILE

More workers were injured on the job in the first half of this year.

A total of 6,561 workplace injuries were recorded between January and June, an increase from 6,073 in the same period last year.

But the number of workplace deaths fell to a seven-year low.

Seventeen workers died on the job from January to June, down from 18 in the same period last year and 23 in the second half.

"This was the lowest absolute number of workplace fatalities since 2012, when fatality data for all workplaces was tracked," said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Workplace Safety and Health Council yesterday when they released the half-year workplace safety statistics.

Six of the 17 deaths took place at construction sites, while two occurred in the manufacturing sector.

The top causes of death were falls from heights, traffic accidents and the collapse or failure of structures and equipment. Four workers died in falls from heights, and another four died in traffic accidents. Three died from the collapse or failure of structures and equipment.

The top cause of injuries, both major and minor, was from falling, slipping and tripping at work.

These resulted in 87 major injuries, such as fractures, in the first half of this year, down from 111 in the same period last year. There were 1,757 minor injuries, such as bruises and sprains, an increase from 1,630 in the year-ago period.

The second-most-common cause of injuries involved machinery. The workplace was less hazardous in another area, with the number of occupational diseases falling to 263 in the first half, down from 295 between January and June last year. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, noise-induced deafness and occupational skin diseases were the top three occupational diseases.

"It is encouraging that the first half of 2019 recorded the lowest half-yearly number of fatalities. However, we cannot be complacent, as non-fatal injuries continue to rise, including in industries that were previously less accident-prone," said Mr Christopher Koh, MOM's director of policy, information and corporate services.

MOM said it conducted 2,500 spot checks in the first six months of this year.

These checks found 4,300 workplace safety and health violations, and 29 companies were ordered to stop work for an average of four weeks each to correct their lapses.

It also fined 300 companies a total of $680,000 on the spot.

The ministry said it plans to conduct 2,500 inspections in the second half of this year as it continues to target the top injury-prone industries, as well as those that have seen a rise in major injuries.

It also warned that it will start releasing the workplace safety records of companies, beginning with the construction industry next year.

Besides workplace safety, mental health is also important in ensuring workers' well-being, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong wrote in a blog post yesterday in response to the latest statistics.

Occupational disease statistics do not take into account mental health issues, wrote Mr Yong, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2019, with the headline Workplace deaths down in 1st half of 2019, but injuries up. Subscribe