7 Workplace Fatalities In Feb 2021 Trigger Call For Safety Time-Out

Towards the end of last year, 6 workers across Singapore sadly passed away due to workplace accidents in the 3 weeks between 23 Nov and 15 Dec.

This brought the issue of fatal workplace accidents into sharp focus for Singapore.

2020 ended with 30 fatalities in total – and if not for the ‘Circuit Breaker’, that figure may have been worse.

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As 2021 begins, this issue has resurfaced after 7 fatal workplace accidents were reported in Feb alone, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad revealed on Facebook.

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He said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will continue to step up enforcement.

Trend is ‘extremely alarming’ & ‘worrying’

In his Facebook post on Monday (22 Feb) night, Mr Zaqy said the 7 fatalities in Feb were “extremely alarming”.

It also set a “worrying trend” for 2021, given that we’ve made up 23% of the total number of fatalities in 2020 in just 1 month.

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The figure of 7 deaths is also more than double the number reported in Feb 2020, said the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council in an announcement.

WSH Council chairman John Ng said he’s “gravely concerned” over the “unprecedented” spate of fatal accidents.

He called them an absolutely unnecessary loss of lives.

3 cases from construction sector

3 of the fatal worksite accidents took place in the construction sector, the WSH Council said.

2 others were from logistics & transport, 1 was from the marine sector, and the remainging 1 was from “other workplaces”.

As for the causes of the accidents:

  • 3 workers fell from height
  • 3 were caught between objects
  • 1 was involved in a work-related traffic accident

1 Feb: Worker found unconscious on boom lift

Some of the fatalities this month were listed on the WSH Council’s website in a series of alerts.

On 1 Feb, a plasterer was found unconscious in his boom lift at a construction site in Jurong West Street 52.

The 31-year-old Indian national was slouched against the control panel.

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After he was found, he was rescued and sent to the hospital. Tragically, he was pronounced dead there.

The WSH Council called for risk controls to protect workers working on mobile
elevated work platforms (MEWPs) like boom lifts or scissor lifts – for example, an on-site risk assessment should be carried out.

It also said that workers should be familiar with the safe work procedures before starting work, and only competent and authorised workers should operate MEWPs.

Workers not trained in operating such machines shouldn’t manoeuvre one in any situation.

2 Feb: Worker falls from trailer bed

On 2 Feb, a prime mover driver was assisting a forklift operator by adjusting a steel bundle at a worksite at 37 Jurong Port Road.

The 67-year-old Singaporean was standing on some steel bars on his trailer bed, when he fell about 2m to the ground.

He was sent to hospital, but unfortunately passed away from his injuries there.

The WSH Council called for risk controls to prevent workers doing loading and unloading work from falling – for example, conducting an on-site risk assessment and familiarising workers with the safe work procedures.

It also said that workers are advised never to stand on or next to unstable cargo, especially if it’s being adjusted. Other safer methods for loading and unloading should also be considered.

8 Feb: Delivery rider collides with truck

On 8 Feb, a delivery rider was riding his motorcycle on the Ayer Rajah Expressway, reported The Straits Times.

The 30-year-old Singaporean collided into the rear of a truck owned by JD Cargo Express.

Unfortunately, he passed away due to the crash.

The rider was employed by a customs permit declaration agency named Declarators. It also provides local courier services.

10 Feb: Company director falls from floor opening

On 10 Feb, construction firm director Koh Kok Heng, 53, was overseeing construction work at a 2-storey private residence at 38 University Walk.

Dunearn Rd house38 University Walk before construction work began.
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He fell through an opening in the floor, and landed on a staircase 4.7m below.

Sadly, he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Mr Koh was listed a director at JMS Construction.

The WSH Council called for a comprehensive risk assessment and risk controls put in place and communicated to all on-site personnel before starting work.

It also said all floor openings must be identified, covered or cordoned off with guard rails, and warning signs put up. Only authorised persons aware of the risks should be allowed access.

WSH Council calls for safety time-out

Mr Ng, the WSH Council chairman, urged all employers to instutute a Safety Time-Out, especially on the use of machinery.

This is in order to assess and review safety provisions and implement immediate safety measures.

He revealed that according to preliminary investigations, risk assessments conducted at the workplaces were inadequate, potential hazards were not identified.

In many cases, untrained and unauthorised workers were using machinery, specifically forklifts and MEWPs.

Incidents could have been prevented: Zaqy

What’s sad is that all the fatal accidents could have been prevented, said Mr Zaqy.

If only there had been adequate risk assessments and proper safety procedures in place, he added.

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He also singled out 2 cases where workers had operated a boom lift and forklift even though they were not trained and not authorised to do so.

These workers both passed away as a result of accidents.

Contractors must ensure such heavy machineries are operated only by trained and authorised personnel, Mr Zaqy said.

MOM will continue to step up enforcement

While all the cases are being investigated by the MOM, the ministry will also continue to step up enforcement.

A “greater focus” will be placed on working at heights and using machinery safely.

MOM will also target high-risk sectors like construction, manufacturing and marine industries in the coming months.

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Mr Zaqy also said that MOM “will not hesitate to take strict enforcement actions” against companies who don’t protect workers’ health and safety with proper measures.

He warned workers that their work passes may be cancelled if caught operating any machinery or equipment without training or authorisation.

Put more focus on following safety rules

For those working in high-risk industries like construction, safety is of the utmost importance.

Any workplace death is one too many, especially if it could have been avoided. Thus, there’s no excuse for not following basic safety rules.

Let’s hope worksites will put more focus on safety to avoid more families experiencing the pain of their loved ones being needlessly taken from them.

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Featured image adapted from Facebook and Facebook.