Workplace deaths surge to 8 in November; MOM to step up enforcement

The Ministry of Manpower building in Havelock Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - The number of workplace deaths a month is at its highest for this year, with eight fatalities so far in November.

The death toll was revealed by Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad in a Facebook post on Thursday night (Nov 28).

Seven of the workers who died on the job this month were foreigners.

The surge in fatal workplace accidents has caused concern, and alarm, as it is a sharp spike compared to the 17 fatalities in the first half of the year.

Mr Zaqy said he was "deeply concerned" about the situation.

"Eight workers have lost their lives while on the job," he said. "Most of these cases happened in high-risk industries such as construction and marine."

He added that the Ministry of Manpower will be stepping up enforcement efforts by conducting an additional 400 inspections in high-risk sectors over the next two months, on top of the regular inspections.

He urged stakeholders to stay vigilant in light of the festive season, during which work activities may be increased to meet production schedules.

"The safety of our workers is our utmost priority," he said.

"We urge construction firms to heed the Singapore Contractors Association Limited's call to conduct a safety timeout and take stock of safety procedures at project sites."

The New Paper previously reported on four of the cases that happened this month, and has now obtained information on all eight cases so far, with two incidents each on Nov 7 and 22.

Mr Zainal Sapari, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, told TNP on Thursday it was alarming to see a spike in workplace accidents, especially when the target is to reduce such accidents to less than 1.0 for every 100,000 workers by 2028.

"Any accident, especially those causing serious injuries or fatalities at a workplace, must be thoroughly investigated to identify the root causes, including difficulties companies are facing to implement sound and effective work safety measures at the worksite," he said.

"I would be concerned if work safety was compromised if a company had done it as part of cost-cutting measures, given the competitive bidding that is taking place for contracts."

The most recent death was on Tuesday morning when a 29-year-old Indian national died after falling in the cargo hold of a vessel that was under repair.

TNP understands the accident happened at about 9am, when he fell over the edge of a deck and plunged 9.3m to the bottom. He was taken to hospital where he later died.

Ms Dipa Swaminathan, the founder of the social enterprise initiative ItsRainingRaincoats, which focuses on migrant worker issues, said the number of deaths was deeply distressing.

"This month has been a nightmare for us. Our prayer each day is that there should be no worker fatality," she told TNP.

"But six out of the 30 days this month, that prayer has gone unanswered, and coffins leave Singapore with the bodies of men who came here with the simple dream of earning a living.

"We hope this nightmare will end soon."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.