Fewer workplace deaths but major injuries up during heightened safety period: MOM

SINGAPORE – The number of major injuries has risen despite the six-month heightened safety period (HSP) introduced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September 2022, which suggests that safety issues continue to be prevalent here.

There was an average of 49.1 major injuries per month from January to August 2022, as compared to 55.3 such incidents between September and December, MOM said in figures released on Thursday.

And while there have been fewer workplace fatalities in recent months, MOM is considering whether to extend the HSP beyond end-February, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad.

There were 1.6 workplace deaths per 100,000 workers prior to the imposition of the stricter safety measures, during which firms with serious lapses that led to severe or fatal accidents will be barred from hiring new foreign workers for up to three moths.

The fatality rate fell to 0.9 deaths per 100,000 workers from September to December, bringing the overall fatality rate for 2022 to 1.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. There were 46 workplace deaths in 2022, the highest number recorded since 2016 when 66 people died.

Speaking at an event where the Government accepted in full the recommendations made by its International Advisory Panel for Workplace Safety and Health (WSH), Mr Zaqy said the HSP has been akin to the circuit breaker for the pandemic.

“It gave us time to think…about what we can do different, take a step back, look at what measures can go upstream and see how the industry performs,” he said. “We’ve seen certain bright spots, but there are also still areas of concern that we think we can improve.”

The HSP has led to improvements in the construction industry, which saw a drop in its death and major injury rate even though the sector was still the largest contributor in 2022 with 160 out of 603 such incidents.

However, sectors such as transportation and storage, admin and support services as well as wholesale and retail trade recorded increases in major injuries.

Examples of such incidents include an uptick in slips, trips and falls in F&B settings, said an MOM spokesman.

The period of heightened measures saw companies in higher-risk sectors conduct a mandatory safety time-out. These included the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or transport and storage industries, as well as firms in other industries which use heavy or industrial vehicles, such as lorries and forklifts.

Top executives also had to personally account to MOM for safety issues and accidents and explain how they were being rectified, the spokesman added.

Of note is that most of the major injuries in recent months came from workers who had less than three years of experience in their company. More of them were also from small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as opposed to large firms, noted MOM.

This is in contrast with mid-2022, when Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said most of those who had died at workplaces or were in accidents were experienced staff.


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