Dip in workplace deaths in first half of 2019, rise in non-fatal injuries

Singapore saw a drop in workplace deaths in first half of this year but also a rise in non-fatal workplace injuries.

There were 17 workplace fatalities in 1H 2019, a dip from the 18 seen over the same period last year and down from the 23 seen in the second half of last year, according to the National Workplace Safety and Health Statistics report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday (30 September). The latest figure is the lowest since 2012, which is when the ministry began tracking fatality data for all workplaces.

MOM added that the 12-month rolling fatal injury rate as of end June remained at 1.2 per 100,000 employed persons, with no change seen from the period of end June last year to end December last year.

Non-fatal workplace injuries rose by 8 per cent from the 6,073 in the first half of 2018 to 6,561 cases in the first half of 2019.

Leading causes of fatal injuries

Falls from height remained a key concern with four fatalities in 1H 2019, one fatality more than in 1H 2018. Two of the deaths this year occurred within the construction industry.

Other leading causes of workplace deaths were vehicular-related incidents, with four deaths in 1H 2019 and 1H 2018, and the collapse or failure of structures or equipment, which saw three cases in 1H 2019 versus only one case in the same period last year.

Slips, trips and falls (STF) remained the top cause of both major and minor injuries.

While major injuries arising from STF decreased from 111 in 1H 2018 to 87 in 1H 2019, STF-related minor injuries increased by eight percent from 1,630 in 1H 2018 to 1,757 in 1H 2019.

MOM also called for closer attention to be paid to reducing machinery-related incidents, the second most common cause of major and minor injuries. Machinery-related major injuries rose from 35 cases in 1H 2018 to 41 cases in 1H 2019. Similarly, machinery-related minor-injuries spiked from 956 cases in 1H 2018 to 1,066 cases in 1H 2019.

The number of dangerous occurrences - incidents with a high potential for multiple deaths - as well as the number of occupational diseases both fell.

The number of dangerous occurrences fell from 10 cases in the first half of 2018 to eight in the first half of this year, with five due to collapse or failure of structures and equipment while the others were due to fires and explosions.

The number of occupational diseases fell from 295 cases to 263.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, noise-induced deafness and occupational skin diseases made up the top three categories of occupational diseases.

MOM called for greater vigilance in the construction and manufacturing industries as the performance of both industries ‘did not improve significantly’ . Both industries each contributed 66 cases of fatal and major injuries in 1H 2019 (see Table 5 in Annex), making them the top two contributing industries.

Greater vigilance is also needed in the Transportation and Storage industry, where fatal and major injuries rose from 22 in 1H 2018 to 35 in 1H 2019.

In addition, major injuries have become more evenly spread across diverse industries, with more major injuries seen in the lower-risk industries of Accommodation and Food Services (34 cases), Wholesale and Retail Trade ( 21 cases) and Professional Services (10 cases).

Engagement Plans

MOM conducted around 2,500 inspections in the first half of this year, and uncovered more than 4,300 WSH violations. Composition fines amounting to a total of S$680,000 were imposed on close to 300 companies during this period.

For the second half of the year, MOM said that it plans to conduct another 2,500 inspections targeting priority industries such as Construction, Manufacturing and Transportation and Storage. It will also be conducting inspections in the Accommodation and Food Services, and Wholesale and Retail Trade, industries which saw a rise in major injuries.

“It is encouraging that the first half of 2019 recorded the lowest half-yearly number of fatalities. However, we cannot be complacent as non-fatal injuries continue to rise, including in industries that were previously less accident-prone.” Director of Policy, Information and Corporate Services Department Mr Christopher Koh said. Authorities have recently amended the Work Injury Compensation Act to share claims data with all insurers, and this will help safer companies benefit from lower premiums, said Mr Koh.

We will also publish injury statistics of companies, starting with the construction industry in 2020, so that safer companies will stand a better chance at securing business." he added.