5 Workers Died In Worksite Accidents In Last 2 Weeks, NTUC Concerned & Alarmed By Sharp Increase

NTUC Assistant Chief Melvin Yong Asks Whether Covid-19 Measures Have Compromised Workplace Safety

It goes without saying that for those working in high-risk industries like construction, safety is of the utmost importance.

As Covid-19 infections put the construction industry on hold, it seems that the issue of workplace safety may have been placed on the backburner for the time being.

However, it’s been brought back into sharp focus after 5 workers died in separate worksite accidents in the last 2 weeks.

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Mr Melvin Yong, NTUC’s assistant secretary-general, revealed that fact in a post on Facebook on Friday (4 Dec).

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He also said he was “concerned and alarmed” by the sharp increase.

Total number of workplace fatalities is two-thirds that of 2019

Mr Yong, who is also Member of Parliament for Radin Mas, also noted that the total number of workplace fatalities in 2020 is more than two-thirds the number in 2019.

This may not seem like a bad figure, but he noted that Covid-19 restrictions meant a big drop in business activities.

Additionally, all construction activities came to stop earlier this year due to the ‘Circuit Breaker’, only gradually resuming from 2 Jun.

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Thus, considering the drop in construction this year, it’s troubling that the number of fatalities is still reaching 2019’s level.

Fatalities should serve as a reminder

Mr Yong urges Singaporeans in the construction industry to let these latest fatalities be a “critical and grim” reminder.

He said we shouldn’t be complacent as we aim to move towards Phase 3, at that would mean more business activities will gradually resume.

He questioned whether the focus on safe management measures to guard against the spread of Covid-19 could have caused people to compromise on workplace safety.

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He also wondered if companies were taking shortcuts due to the backlog of work accumulated during the suspension of construction activities.

WSH Council called for safety time-out

Mr Yong said that the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and the Singapore Contractors Association called a safety time-out last week.

He added that he was glad about the move, as it would help companies to “push the pause button” and review their safety measures and protocol.

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He urged companies to prioritise and safeguard their workers’ safety and not make them rush to catch on work delayed work.

This would put their lives at risk, he added.

23 Nov: 1st fatality

The latest 5 fatalities were listed on the WSH Council’s website in a series of updates.

The 1st incident occurred on 23 Nov, when a worker was raising the work platform of a boom lift.

He was caught between the guardrail of the boom lift and a roofing structural member.

After being extricated, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The WSH Council has advised for a comprehensive risk assessment to be carried out when a mobile elevated work platform like a boom lift is required.

24 Nov: 2nd fatality

The 2nd incident took place just the next day, on 24 Nov.

It occurred when a worker was checking formwork panels at a construction site.

He lost his footing and fell about 0.8m to the ground.

He was sent to hospital, and passed away the next day.

The WSH Council reminded that all activities that require the installation and dismantling of formwork structures should be conducted only after a comprehensive risk assessment is carried out.

24 Nov: 3rd fatality

The 3rd incident also happened on 24 Nov, when a worker was carrying out arc welding on a pipe.

Before he started work, an inert gas was piped into the it, to facilitate the welding.

The worker was later found with his upper body inside the opening of an adjoining pipe, and was unconscious.

He was pronounced dead after being sent to hospital.

The WSH Council advised for necessary controls to protect workers who work with inert gases, as their use in a confined area may cause an asphyxiation hazard.

1 Dec: 4th fatality

The 4th incident took place this week, on Tuesday (1 Dec).

2 workers were in a warehouse packing good, when 1 of them fell from height.

The other worker heard a loud thud, and found his colleague lying on the ground, with his body facing upwards — meaning he likely fell backwards.

The fallen worker passed away in hospital.

The WSH Council said that when activities are conducted in a warehouse or storeroom, proper access to storage racks should be provided.

That includes using suitable access equipment like a step platform, vertical personnel lift or reach truck to get to goods placed in high places.

2 Dec: 5th fatality

The next day, on Wednesday (2 Dec), saw the 5th incident and latest fatality.

2 workers were repairing a machine when one of its parts suddenly fell on 1 of them.

The injured worker was declared dead at the scene.

The WSH Council said suitable risk controls should be installed to protect workers during machine installation, repair, servicing and maintenance. A risk assessment should also be done.

MOM investigating all fatalities

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating all the 5 fatalities that happened in the last 2 weeks, said the WSH Council.

However, Mr Yong called for a trained WSH representative in every organisation.

They would ensure that even as Covid-19 safe management measures are implemented at worksites, they don’t compromise on workplace safety.

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He also said that workers who haven’t been working for months should be gradually eased back into their jobs.

Thus, he suggested a structured re-orientation programme for these workers, as well as refresher WSH courses, especially in high-risk activities like manufacturing, construction, transportation and storage.

Any workplace death is one too many

Any workplace death is one too many, especially if they could have been avoided.

Thus, workplace safety practises are of the utmost importance to avoid more families experiencing the tragedy of their loved ones being taken from them in an accident.

MS News sends our condolences to the families of the workers who’ve passed away, and hope they’ll be well cared for.

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at hello@mustsharenews.com.

Featured image adapted from Justin Lim @ Unsplash. For illustration purposes only.

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