The first half of this year saw an increase in number of workplace fatalities and occupational diseases1 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Report released by the WSH Council. However, the overall number of workplace injuries2 fell by 8% and permanent disablements fell by 37%.
Table 1: Number of Workplace Injuries and Occupational Diseases
More NID cases reported following MOM audit exercise
The Report highlighted that the number of occupational diseases went up from 124 in 2010 to 361 in 2011, primarily due to the increased reporting of Noise-Induced Deafness (NID) related cases. More NID cases were reported following an island-wide audit exercise by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)3. The audit checked on the noise levels of these companies and the hearing of their workers. Of the 315 NID cases reported, only one was in the advanced stage. The other 314 cases are in their early stages. Excluding NID cases, the number of occupational diseases in the first half of 2011 was 46 compared to 37 over the same period last year.
Workers affected can take measures to protect their hearing and prevent further deterioration. The WSH Council have developed materials to assist employers of workers who may be exposed to noisy work environments. Companies are urged to use these materials to develop a comprehensive Hearing Conservation Programme. This will include putting in measures to reduce the noise levels, provide hearing protection to workers and conduct annual checks of their hearing to identify cases early and take intervention measures. More information on NID and its prevention is on the WSHC website (www.wshc.sg/nid).
Traditional sectors account for most serious injury cases New sectors account for 43% of temporary disablement cases
Between January and June 2011, the number of workplace fatalities increased to 30 from 25 in 2010. 77% of fatalities came from the three traditional sectors – Marine, Construction and Manufacturing. These sectors also accounted for about 78% of permanent disablements and occupational diseases. However, in terms of less serious injuries or temporary disablements4(TD), they account for about 41% of 4,697 cases.
Another 43% of TD cases (or 1,997 cases) were from the new sectors that are covered under the WSH Act from 1 Sept 2011. Incidents include employees tripping in cluttered work areas and sustaining injuries or being struck by heavy objects while retrieving them from shelves. These incidents can be easily prevented through simple risk control measures. It is important that companies in these sectors do their part and put in better measures to prevent workplace incidents.
Figures in parenthesis refer to the number of fatal incidents.
Table 2: Number of Workplace Fatalities by the Top 3 Industries, 2010 and 2011
Chairman of the WSH Council Lee Tzu Yang on the Report, “Although the number of workplace injuries has been declining by 5% to 8% over the last two years, we can see that we cannot afford to relax. Despite the drop in overall injuries, workplace fatalities have increased this half year. Any workplace incident has the potential of resulting in an injury or a fatality, so our goal must be to prevent all workplace incidents. The Council is committed to getting everyone on board, and we can only succeed if employers want to ensure their employees’ safety and take concrete measures to improve. They must make safety an integral part of operations. Employees in turn need to follow the safety rules, learn to be aware of risks and look out for each other. Everyone must put safety first, and I include offices, wholesale and retail companies, which form part of the new sectors5 that account for 40% of workplace incidents.”
Enhanced ProBE initiatives to improve safety in key areas
Besides efforts to engage the new sectors, MOM and the WSH Council will also continue to enhance WSH standards in the traditional sectors. The top causes of workplace fatalities in these sectors that are identified under Programme-based Engagement (ProBE) Plus Priority Areas6 include:
^ Exclude crane-related fatalities
Table 3: Number of Workplace Fatalities by Type of Incident, 2010 and 2011
• Fall from height (FFH) remained the leading type of incident since 2006. This year saw an increase from 9 cases in 2010 to 13 cases in the first half of 2011.
• Struck by moving objects mainly caused by workplace vehicles is in second place, accounting for 5 deaths, up from 4 last year.
• Struck by falling objects (SBFO) accounted for 3 fatalities, caused by a collapse or failure of structure and equipment.
- Responding to the Report, MOM WSH Commissioner, Mr Ho Siong Hin said, “MOM investigations show that many of the workplace accidents could have been avoided if safety and health risks were identified and steps taken to mitigate such risks early. The Ministry reminds employers not to be complacent and encourages them to press on with their on-going efforts to make work processes safer. Doing so will prevent workplace incidents and injuries, and more importantly save lives. At the same time, businesses will have minimal impact on their overall business productivity. MOM will be stepping up inspections in the key sectors over the next few months, and will not hesitate to impose stiff penalties, where necessary.”
- Industry stakeholders who want to find out more information about the WSH statistics and the above initiatives can check the WSH Council website (www.wshc.sg).
1An occupational disease is a disease contracted as a result of an exposure to risk factors arising from work activity. A confirmed case of occupational disease is one where there is definite evidence that the worker suffers from a disease which is related to his occupation.
2A workplace injury is any personal injury or death resulting from a workplace accident.
3The audit exercise is part of efforts to address potential under-reporting of NID cases. This was first highlighted in the National Workplace Health strategy that was launched in 2009 to address the top Occupational Diseases in Singapore. NID is the top OD, accounting for more than 90% of cases every year. Over 350 companies were audited. They were from the metalworking and manufacturing sectors, where workers have a higher potential of being exposed to noisier work environments.
4A temporary disablement is an injury, other than fatal and permanent disablement, which results in more than 3 days of medical leave or at least 24 hours of hospitalisation.
5This refers to workplaces recently covered under the WSH Act as of 1 Sept 2011.
6ProBE is a programme by MOM and WSH Council to focus efforts on key work areas that contribute to most work fatalities. It includes efforts to raise capabilities through training and engagement, setting up of proper systems and measures to address hazards as well as focused enforcement exercises. More information on ProBE is attached in Annex B.
Annex A - Workplace Safety and Health Report (January to June 2011)
Annex B - Fact sheet on Programme-based Engagement (PROBE) Plus