Greater vigilance needed with workplace injury rate returning to pre-COVID levels

Image by Bannafarsai_Stock

Singapore, 22 March 2021 – The total number of workplace injuries for 2020 fell by 18 per cent, from 13,779 in 2019 to 11,350 in 2020, while workplace fatalities reduced from 39 in 2019 to 30 in 2020. This translates to a workplace fatal injury rate of 0.9 per 100,000 workers. The fewer injuries were due largely to the suspension of workplace activities in the second and third quarters of 2020 to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, the number of workplace injuries reverted to pre-COVID levels by the fourth quarter of 2020, with 3,413 workplace injuries reported compared to 3,445 in the same quarter in 2019.

Falls from height continued to be the top contributor of workplace fatalities, with eight cases in 2020, compared to seven in 2019. Vehicular incidents accounted for four cases in 2020, compared to seven in 2019. Together, they contributed to 40 per cent of all fatal workplace accidents last year.

Slips, trips and falls (STF) and machinery incidents remained the leading causes of non-fatal injuries, contributing to nearly half of all major injuries last year. However, the number of incidents has decreased significantly due to COVID-related work stoppages. Construction and manufacturing made up for half of all workplace fatalities last year, with the highest number of fatalities comes from the construction sites.

  2020 2019
STF major injuries 159 206
STF minor injuries 3,218 3,694
Machinery accidents major injuries 58 82
Machinery accidents minor injuries 1,696 2,178


  2020 2019
Construction injuries 9 13
Fatal injuries 2.2 per 100,000 2.9 per 100,000

The escalating injury rate in late 2020 and the spate of accidents in February 2021 is a cause for concern. Companies could be rushing to catch up on project delays following work stoppages, which might also be exacerbated by manpower disruptions due to the pandemic.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) urges companies not to neglect work safety and health (WSH) while balancing project schedules and manpower constraints. Companies should refresh workers’ WSH training and review risk assessments, especially if there have been changes to their work processes or workplace due to COVID-19.

To reinforce this message, between mid-December 2020 to mid-March 2021, MOM mounted more than 1,000 inspections under Ops ROBIN, targeting high-risk industries and found contraventions in 55 per cent of workplaces inspected. They issued a total of 13 stop-work orders, 264 composition fines amounting to S$303,000 and 1,270 notices of non-compliance. The top contraventions uncovered include fall from height risks, and poor maintenance of heavy machinery such as excavators, boom lifts and forklifts.

Following the fatal Tuas explosion on 24 February 2021, which killed three and injured seven other workers, MOM convened an inquiry committee to look into the causes and circumstances that led to the accident. Before the findings are made known, MOM has also stepped-up inspections by launching Ops BULLFINCH 2, which targets 500 companies working with combustible dust.

Read: Inquiry committee into the explosion at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 begins work

Commissioner for WSH and Divisional Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, Silas Sng, said, “The commitment of a company’s leadership is key to preventing accidents. They should not wait for inspectors to pick up lapses, but should instead proactively take steps to assess the risk of their operations and implement adequate control measures to prevent accidents from occurring.”

– Construction+ Online

Source: MOM

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