Singapore's workplace fatalities decline

How can employers push this rate even lower?

Singapore's workplace fatalities decline

The number of workplace fatalities in Singapore declined in 2021, equivalent to a workplace fatality rate of 1.1 per 100,000 workers, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

"This puts us on track to meeting our Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) 2028 target of achieving a workplace fatality rate of below 1.0 per 100,000 workers, an outcome only achieved by four countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development," MOM said in a statement. 

The top cause of fatal incidents in 2021 is still vehicular accidents with 11, where six were work-related traffic accidents, added MOM. The industries with the higher number of reported fatalities were the Construction sector with 13 as well as Transportation and Storage sectors with nine in 2021.

The Transportation and Storage industry also reported an increase in fatality rate with 3.6 per 100,000 workers in 2021, from the previous 3.1 in 2019. The Construction industry also saw a hike in its workplace fatality rate of 3.3 per 100,000 workers in 2021, from the previous 2.9 in 2019.

Major and minor injuries

Major injuries also saw a decline from 629 in 2019 to 610 in 2021, but the major injury rate on that year increased slightly to 18.5 injuries per 100,000 workers. The Manufacturing and Construction industries made up 44% of all major injuries in 2021, according to MOM, with the former seeing an increase to 36.4 per 100,000 workers in 2021.

For minor injuries, MOM said a total of 21,539 in 2021 were reported, after employers have been mandated to report all work injuries that lead to any instance of medical leave or transfer to light duties in September 2020.

According to MOM, only 9,420 of the total minor injuries resulted to three or fewer days of medical leave or light injuries. The minor injury rate was 653 per 100,000 workers in 2021.

The top cause for non-fatal injuries remained slips, trips, and falls (STFs), 208 incidents leading to major injuries, and 5,785 incidents leading to minor ones. Machinery-related incidents were also another common cause, according to MOM, accounting for 63 major injuries and 3,162 minor ones in 2021.

Occupational Diseases

Meanwhile, the incidence rate for Occupational Diseases (ODs) increased to 20 cases per 100,000 workers in 2021, up from 15 and 14.8 in 2020 and 2019, respectively. However, MOM attributed this from the medical assessments and cases delayed from 2020 due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

"Work-related musculoskeletal disorders and noise-induced deafness continued to be the leading OD types, jointly accounting for 83% of the total number of ODs in 2021," said MOM.

Read more: More than 900 firms pledge to Singapore's Safe Hands Campaign

What can employers do?

Employers are urged to take risk assessment seriously to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities, said Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health and Divisional Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, Mr Silas Sng.

"While we recognise the manpower and cost challenges the industries are facing, companies must remain committed to protecting their workers’ safety and health. Risk assessment is the cornerstone of preventing workplace accidents, so I urge all companies to take your risk assessment seriously and implement proper risk control measures," Sng said in a statement.

To address STFs, employers and workers were also advised to wear non-slip shoes, remove clutter in work areas, and put up signages with STF risks. Companies are also asked to use slip metres and artificial intelligence wearables to detect and reduce STF accidents.

"MOM will also step up inspections on companies that are more prone to STF hazards, with inspections focusing not only on observing physical conditions but also checking the adequacy of risk assessment and safety procedures," the ministry said.

To reduce machinery-related incidents, MOM said it is looking into stronger enforcement actions, such as heavier fines against companies.

"We will continue engaging the industry to raise awareness of safe work procedures and safety measures that are often overlooked for tasks such as the clearing of chokes or maintenance of machines."

On the government's end, MOM said it will also continue addressing the leading causes of fatal accidents through technology. A workgroup has also been established to investigate the safety of delivery service workers.

"We will also step up efforts to address major injury trends this year. MOM will share more details at a later date," said the ministry.

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