Workplace injuries down 25% amid dip in economic activity

But there were 16 fatalities in first half of this year, just one fewer than same period last year

The leading cause of fatal injuries continues to be fall from height and vehicular-related incidents.
The leading cause of fatal injuries continues to be fall from height and vehicular-related incidents.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Workplace injuries fell by 25 per cent in the first half of this year, likely due to the suspension of selected workplace activities from April to June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Workplace fatalities, however, saw just a slight improvement over the same period, with falls from height and vehicular-related incidents accounting for the most deaths.

The number of injuries at work between January and June this year was 4,996, compared with 6,630 in the same period last year.

There were 16 workplace deaths in the first six months of the year - close to the 17 fatalities in the first half of last year, but almost a third lower than the 22 deaths from last July to December.

These statistics were provided by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council yesterday.

Major and minor injuries were mostly caused by slips, trips and falls, though on the whole, the number of such cases fell from 1,862 in the first half of last year to 1,508 in the same period this year.

The manufacturing industry was the top contributor to non-fatal injuries, with 40 major injuries and 971 minor cases. It also had three workplace deaths.

Across all sectors, the second-most common cause of injuries was machinery-related, with 809 such cases in the first half of this year. There were 1,119 machinery-related cases from January to June last year.

The 12-month fatality rate for the transportation and storage industry also increased, from 3.1 per 100,000 workers as at end-December last year, to 3.8 as at end-June this year.

MOM and the WSH Council said the industry accounted for the highest number of deaths at the workplace, with five cases in the first half of this year.

Overall, the leading cause of fatal injuries continued to be falls from height and vehicular-related incidents. These accounted for four and three deaths respectively in the first half of this year.

The construction industry, which ground to a near-complete halt in April during the circuit breaker period, saw three workplace deaths in the first six months of this year - half of the sector's fatalities in the same period last year. All three deaths occurred in the first quarter of the year.

The industry also saw 26 cases of major injuries in the first six months, compared with 61 cases in the same period last year.

There were four workplace incidents where many lives were at risk - classified as dangerous occurrences - from January to June. Two were fire and explosion cases, while the other two were crane-related incidents.

The number of occupational diseases also fell by about a quarter, from 264 cases in the first half of last year to 195 cases in the same period this year. The top two diseases were work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as sprains, repetitive stress syndrome and muscle strain, and noise-induced deafness, accounting for about nine in 10 cases.

The WSH Council said it has been engaging industries on restarting work safely following the lifting of circuit breaker measures.

From the fourth quarter of this year, the WSH performance of companies will be published, starting with construction companies. Unsafe contractors will be disqualified from public construction tenders.

Since Sept 1, employers have also been required to report all work accidents that result in medical leave or light duty.

Responding to the statistics yesterday, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong encouraged companies to implement a structured reorientation programme and WSH refresher courses for returning workers, especially at high-risk work sites.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'Workplace injuries down 25% amid dip in economic activity'. Print Edition | Subscribe