Workplace fatalities drop but construction boom may see rise in accidents

The number of deaths at the workplace went down by 22 per cent in 2007, compared to the previous year.

This is according to a report released by the Workplace Safety and Health Advisory Committee.

Despite the drop, industry players caution that the boom in the construction industry may mean more workplace-related accidents.

When the crane tower collapsed at the National University of Singapore last month, three were killed and two were injured.

Investigations showed that this could have been avoided if contractors and operators had followed safety regulations.

And that’s the main message from the Workplace Safety and Health Advisory Committee.

It said the number of fatalities at the workplace dropped from 45 in 2006 to 35 in 2007, in key priority areas.

But this downward trend could be reversed given the construction boom.

Heng Chiang Gnee, Deputy Chairman-designate, Workplace Safety and Health Council, said: “A key aspect is also in the area of building a culture that is very much linked to having a safety mindset. So as we move towards a situation where the culture becomes more appropriate, the safety management statistics would reflect a higher level of maturity.”

And one step in that direction is reporting the accidents because this is often not done.

Mr Heng continued: “If it’s done intentionally, then I think the authorities ought to address it differently. If it’s done unintentionally because of ignorance and so on, then the approach would be to educate them.

“It is important for us to actually get accurate data, because it is through such accurate data, that the advisory committee can then look at what are the actions that would be needed to basically address and focus on the right area.”

“The approach towards reporting – there is a certain format that they would have to adopt. Let’s say defining what accidents are reportable, and what are not reportable. And I think if you were to take the safety management philosophy a bit further, companies themselves ought to actually address near-misses.”

Currently, the Workplace and Health Safety Laws stipulate that employers who fail to report accidents as required by regulations could be fined up to S$5,000 for a first offence.

Repeat offenders may be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed up to six months.

Meanwhile, under the new Work Injury Compensation Act which takes effect on 1 April, another 850 thousand employees will be covered and the payouts will be higher.

Currently, the Workmen’s Compensation Act only benefits manual workers who earn less than S$1,600 a month.

But with the new Work Injury Compensation Act, all workers will be covered regardless of their pay-cheques or line of work.

However, uniformed personnel and domestic workers will not be covered under the new Act.

So families of workers who died on the job will receive payouts ranging from S$47,000 to S$140,000.

That’s up from S$37,000 to S$111,000 under the old Workmen’s Compensation Act.

Workers who are permanently disabled will now receive between S$60,000 to S$180,000, up from S$49,000 to S$147,000.

The Work Injury Compensation Act will also cover 95 per cent of hospital charges up to a cap of S$25,000.

Employees can now also make claims for injuries sustained during work under different employers and for work done overseas. – CNA/vm

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 25 Mar 2008

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