Construction deaths in Singapore rose from 25 in 2008 to 31 in 2009.

Singapore Work Fatalities Up 4.5 Percent Last Year

The country's Ministry of Manpower promised on Monday to focus enforcement inspections on construction and maritime, where 63 percent of the 2009 fatalities occurred.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workplace Safety and Health Council have released the 2009 WSH Statistics Report, which shows occupational diseases and workplace injuries declined across the board in 2009. Workplace deaths were up by 4.5 percent, however, with 63 percent of the fatalities occurring in two sectors: construction and maritime. MOM Commissioner for WSH Ho Siong Hin promised to focus enforcement inspections on companies of all sizes in those two sectors.

"In our checks, besides on-site conditions, we will also look closely at whether companies have taken adequate measures to implement proper WSH systems, practices, and employee training," he said. "We will also like to remind all employees to do their part to strictly follow WSH rules to ensure their own safety and that of their co-workers. Any party found to have violated WSH regulations will be taken to task."

The Workplace Safety and Health Council was created in April 2008 to raise WSH standards. The council consists of 16 industry leaders. WSH Council Chairman Lee Tzu Yang, who is Shell Companies chairman in Singapore, also called on industry to re-examine WSH practices now in use. "While we can take heart that the overall number of work injuries has gone down, we are deeply concerned about the increase in work fatalities," he said. "We must pay attention to both higher-hazard sectors, such as construction and marine, and less-familiar sectors, such as hotels and other service activities. This year's report is also significant as the rise in fatalities also led to a rise in man-hours lost due to serious incidents." He said industry "must do more to keep workers safe at work, prevent unnecessary loss of life, while playing a role to drive productivity."

The council represents major industries in Singapore. It was created in April 2008 to work with MOM to raise WSH standards. The council consists of 16 leaders from construction, manufacturing, maritime, petrochemicals, logistics, government, unions, legal, insurance, and academia.

The 43-page report indicates occupational diseases fell by more than 45 percent in 2009 from the prior year, while work injuries dropped by 2.1 percent. This was the first drop in overall work injuries since 2006. The accident frequency rate fell 1.9 per million man-hours worked in 2008 to 1.8 in 2009.

Deaths in construction rose from 25 in 2008 to 31 in 2009. Fatalities in metalworking doubled from three in 2008 to six in 2009. Three sectors that had recorded zero fatalities in 2008 experienced at least one in 2009: hotels and restaurants; landscape care and maintenance service activities; and administrative and support service activities. Maritime deaths were unchanged from 2008 to 2009 (13 occurred in each year), but the fatality rate rose from 9.2 to 11.1 per 100,000 employees because employment in the sector declined.

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