Lorry driver dies unloading rice

Lorry driver dies unloading rice
Safety vans have been visiting around 1,300 work sites a year to teach workers about health and safety.

The man in his 60s had been unloading sacks of rice from the back of his lorry on Dec 13.

Moments later, two assistants who had begun wheeling the bags away on trolleys heard a loud thud.

They turned to see him lying on the ground. The man was sent to the National University Hospital, where he died the next day.

The man, a driver, had been working for the rice and sugar department of local company Sin Heng Chan.

Mr Chan Cheng Meng, a manager at the company, said the man and two others were at a customer's shop in Jurong West Street 42 and had parked the lorry in a public carpark to unload the rice.

Mr Chan told The New Paper: "After he helped unload the rice, he was pulling some wrapping when he accidentally fell."

He said his employee did not have any health problems and had never taken a day of sick leave when he was working as a driver.

When pressed for further details, Mr Chan said the incident had passed and he did not want to discuss it.

After the incident, the Manpower Ministry ordered Sin Heng Chan to review its safe work procedures for unloading rice.

Investigations are still underway, a ministry spokesman said.

She added: "MOM reminds all companies to carry out proper risk assessments and implement the necessary safety measures for all work activities, especially during this festive period, when the demand for goods and services may increase."

The incident puts the issue of workplace injuries back in the spotlight.

In the first half of 2014, there were 30 workplace fatalities, five more than in the same period in 2013.

The Workplace Safety and Health Institute, which oversees workplace safety and health, has not released its full statistics for 2014.

But based on media records, there were at least 55 fatalities last year. In 2013, there were 59 deaths.

There were 17 fatalities in the construction sector alone in the first half of 2014, a a spike of more than 50 per cent over the same period in 2013.

Workplace injuries also climbed to 6,284 in the first half of 2014, a 14 per cent jump from the same period last year, reported The Straits Times.

Consultants and experts in workplace safety say more needs to be done.

Director of workplace consultancy Bond International Roy Yeo said employers need to move beyond legislation and respect every worker's right to a safe and healthy work environment.

He said the influx of foreign workers has created "safety challenges" because of language barriers and their different backgrounds.

Suitable

Mr Raj Singh, director of safety consultancy Safety@Work pointed out that it is also important for the training to suit the audience.

"I once worked with an organisation that was training blue-collar workers on safety. I got the shock of my life when they showed me their training material. It featured 400 presentation slides full of words," he said.

Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah said an increased awareness of safety issues is essential.

"If everyone pays more attention to safety, even if there is little or no (safety) process in place, I think part of the battle is won. "Employers can take the lead without waiting for the Government to act," she said.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower Zainudin Nordin said that introducing a culture of safety is of utmost importance.

A series of initiatives have since been launched, including MOM's Work@Heights which aims to tackle safety issues including the lack of proper supervision.

lawsm@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 03, 2015.
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