Workplace deaths on the rise in Singapore

Author: PM editorial | Date: 28 Sep 2016

Collaboration with the British Safety Council aims to reverse recent trend of increased fatalities

The rate of fatalities at work has increased in Singapore for the last two years, after several years of sustained success in improving workplace health and safety.
In 2004, with a death rate of 4.9 per 100,000 employed persons, Singapore launched an initiative called Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) 2015, aiming to reduce that number to 2.5 by 2015. The Ministry of Manpower then went one step further by pledging a target of 1.8 by 2018.
Fast-forward to 2014 and workplace fatalities had already fallen to 1.8 per 100,000, which was hailed a huge success for the Workplace Safety and Health Council and Ministry of Manpower (MOM). However, last year the number rose slightly to 1.9 and this year it could reach 2.2, with 48 deaths reported at work so far.
To bring that number back down again, the MOM has collaborated with the British Safety Council, a charity and campaigning body with a vision that no one should be injured or made ill at work. It has been working with organisations in Asia to improve health, safety and environmental management for the benefit of workers.
“Singapore has made impressive progress in improving occupational health and safety, as demonstrated by the reduced number of fatal injuries at work,” said Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council.
“Over the last decade, its health and safety industry has done a lot of work with employers to gain their commitment to improving workplace conditions. I’m delighted that Singapore is in a good position to achieve its impressive goal of bringing the fatality rate to less than 1.8 per 100,000 workers by 2018,” he said.
In a speech at the National Workplace Safety and Health Conference last month, Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, declared there were three areas of workplace safety Singapore must do better in.
“First, fatality in the construction sector must come down. It accounted for 19 deaths or 40 per cent of total workplace fatalities this year. Seven in 10 of the fatalities could be attributed to lapses in planning and execution of work activities,” he said.
“Secondly, workers’ health as a contributing factor to workplace fatalities. In the last three years, one-third of all work-related fatality cases involved workers with existing medical conditions such as heart disease and hypertension. These conditions were aggravated by their work activities, resulting in workplace incidents.
“Thirdly, workplace incidents involving workers aged 55 and older has been going up by about two percentage points a year in recent years. It accounted for 18 per cent of all incidents in the first six months of this year. In January, an elderly cleaner was sweeping leaves behind a planter wall when he lost his balance and fell. He subsequently passed away from his injuries. This could have been prevented if the job was redesigned to take into consideration his physical abilities,” said Mr Lim.
In May, Singapore’s government announced plans to tackle similar problems by establishing a S$66 million fund to provide grants for organisations that want to redesign jobs for older employees.