Saturday 7 February 2015

Fewer killed at work in 2014, but it's still 'too high': Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Record low fatality rate, but let's bring it down to zero: Minister
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2015

WORKPLACE deaths fell from 73 in 2013 to 60 last year, dropping by 17.8 per cent, fresh figures show.

But 60 is still "too high a number", Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday at the annual BizSafe conference organised by the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC).

While this means that the workplace fatality rate has dropped to 1.8 per 100,000 employees - the lowest on record - lives were still lost, Mr Tan said.

"We want to bring it down to zero," he said in a speech. Furthermore, incidences of major and minor injuries at work have increased over the past three years from 2011.

Last year, major reported injuries rose to 672 from 589 in 2013 and minor ones went up to 12,863 from 11,253, according to preliminary data released by the council's research arm yesterday.

But these also included work-related traffic accidents, added to the count for the first time. Amendments in regulations on incident reporting require companies to report all work-related traffic accidents from Jan 1 last year, said the WSH Council.

For example, firms have to report to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) when their dispatch riders have an accident on the road or when a truck driver injures himself when he enters a construction site.

Yesterday, Mr Tan also touched on the challenge of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve their workplace safety measures in his speech.

He cited a 2013 WSH study that found that 63 per cent of SMEs had insufficient expertise in workplace safety and 59 per cent felt implementing safety measures was costly.

To help SMEs, the WSH Council yesterday launched a revised code of practice on risk management, which includes tips on how to keep employees safe.

Mr Seet Choh San, president of the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers, which trains safety officers, said: "We must continue to emphasise workplace safety to keep the figures low. It is possible if we can cultivate safety as a value and find new ways to engage more workers and their families."

Meanwhile, a foreign worker died on Wednesday after plunging from the sixth floor of a building to its second floor when the beam he was harnessed to fell.

When asked, MOM said its safety officers responded immediately and went to the accident site in Beach Road, where construction is being carried out by Hyundai Engineering and Construction.

A stop-work order has been issued and investigations are ongoing.

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