09 May 2022
Good overall progress in improving Workplace Safety and Health, but worrying spate of recent accidents
Singapore has made good progress in making our workplaces safer over the years. Our workplace fatality rate has more than halved from 2.3 per 100,000 workers in 2011 to 1.1 in 2021. This is close to world-class standards, with only four OECD countries achieving a fatality rate of less than 1.0 per 100,000 workers.
2. However, there has been a recent worrying spate of workplace fatalities across various industries, with 10 in April 2022 alone. This brings the total number of workplace fatalities in 2022 to 20, higher than the number of fatalities for the same period since 2016. As such, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and industry partners have called on companies to conduct a Safety Time-Out (STO) from 9 May 2022. (please see para 6 for details of what an STO involves).
Many cases could have been prevented with basic safety and health measures
3. Of the 20 fatal cases in 2022 so far, it is very concerning that seven of them were similar in nature to cases that occurred in 2021: three cases involved forklifts, two involved falls from ladders, two involved falls through fragile surfaces. Preliminary investigations revealed that a common factor among these fatalities was that basic safety and health control measures – such as wearing of seat belts in forklifts, or fall protection gear while working at heights – were either inadequate or not in place at all. Lives would have been saved if these well-established control measures were taken.
WSH Council has partnered with industry associations and NTUC to rally companies to conduct a Safety Time-Out
4. To address this spate of fatalities, we strongly urge companies to:
i. Ensure they have effective WSH management systems, including reviewing their risk assessments, ensuring that all their workers implement risk control measures, and have WSH training relevant to their roles.
ii. Make use of WSH Council’s WSH Alerts, which contain learning points from recent fatal accidents, to sensitise all their workers to potentially hazardous situations, and on how to avoid a repeat of similar fatal cases.
5. To this end, the WSH Council has partnered with the NTUC and various industry and trade associations to generate mass awareness on the need for companies to review their WSH management systems, and learn from past accidents, via what is known as a STO from 9 May 2022. This is expected to last for two weeks.
6. STOs typically involve taking a pause in work for senior management to engage workers and unions in reinforcing WSH processes, and to act on any issues raised. This STO also urges senior management to ensure that learning points from past accidents are shared with all workers. Doing so enables all parties to be aligned in their goals towards achieving better WSH practices. This STO will have two main focus areas: Working Safely at Heights, such as working safely on fragile surfaces and safe use of ladders, and Safe Use of Equipment, such as forklifts. More information on STOs and the list of participating associations are in the Annex.
7. In addition, the WSH Council will be organising an online STO Forum, which will be broadcast on the WSH Council’s Facebook page in end-May. It will feature a sharing on the recent cases and learning points, as well as presentations by industry experts from various industries who will focus on topics such as safe use of forklifts, safe use of ladders, working around fragile surfaces, and safe boarding of vessels.
8. WSH Council Chairman Mr John Ng, said: “It is alarming and unfortunate that a number of this year’s fatal cases involved basic safety lapses. Furthermore, some of these accidents are similar to those that happened in 2021. This is why I strongly urge all companies to answer this STO call to review your processes, communicate with your workers, and implement necessary control measures to uphold good WSH standards, particularly in preventing falls from height, working around fragile surfaces, and the safe use of machinery such as forklifts.”
9. Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health and Divisional Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, Mr Silas Sng, said: “Performing work activities that are routine and repetitive does not guarantee that accidents will not happen. We need all employers and employees to take WSH seriously and personally, and to implement the WSH measures before an accident occurs in your workplace.”
10. The last time the WSH Council called for a nation-wide STO was on 25 June 2021, which lasted two weeks. For more information on what companies can do to conduct an STO, please visit www.wshc.sg/resources.