25 Mar 2021
The total number of workplace injuries for 2020 fell by 18%, 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. We should, however, heighten vigilance, as 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. Injury rates in late 2020 have escalated to pre-Covid levels.
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% of all fatal workplace accidents last year.
Major and minor injuries
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. Nonetheless, the number of incidents has decreased significantly due to Covid-related work stoppages. There were 159 STF major injuries in 2020, down from 216 in 2019; and 3,318 STF minor injuries, down from 3,694 in 2019. Machinery incidents accounted for 58 major injuries in 2020 compared to 82 in 2019; and 1,696 minor injuries compared to 2,178 in 2019.
Injuries by industry
Construction and Manufacturing made up for half of all workplace fatalities last year. Construction continued to account for the highest number of fatalities, although it decreased significantly, with nine cases in 2020 compared to 13 in 2019. This was likely due to work stoppages in the second and third quarters of 2020.
However, closer attention should be paid to the Manufacturing sector, which saw six fatalities in 2020, compared to four in 2019. Its fatal injury rate increased from 1.0 per 100,000 workers in 2019 to 1.5 per 100,000 workers in 2020. In addition, Manufacturing was also the top contributor of non-fatal injuries last year, with 110 major and 2,330 minor injuries.
The number of dangerous occurrences (DOs) was halved, from 21 in 2019 to 10 in 2020. This was likely due to work stoppages, especially in the Construction sector. Seven cases were caused by collapse/failure of structures, and the other three were fires and explosion.
The number of Occupational Diseases (ODs) increased slightly by 2%, from 517 cases in 2019 to 528 in 2020. This was partly contributed by 34 Covid-19 cases, which were classified as work-related. The top three ODs were work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD), noise-induced deafness (NID), and infectious diseases, which in total accounted for 89% (472) of all OD cases in 2020. Many ODs arose from sustained hazard exposure, so were less affected by work stoppages in 2020.
The escalating injury rate in late 2020 and the spate of accidents in February 2021 is cause for concern. Companies could be rushing to catch up on project delays following work stoppages and exacerbated by manpower disruptions due to the pandemic. MOM and the WSH Council urge companies not to neglect 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.