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Death on the job

Ten workers have been killed at workplaces so far this year. -TNP
Shaffiq Alkhatib and Low Zhang Quan

Thu, Mar 14, 2013
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - A forklift driver was crushed by a prime mover on March 1.

The following day, another worker was killed at a construction site after apparently falling to his death.

The two deaths mean that in about 2 1/2 months this year, 10 workers have been killed at workplaces here.

The figures were similar in previous years.

In the March 1 accident involving the prime mover, the 54-year-old forklift driver was killed at an unloading bay along 11 Jalan Terusan, off Jurong Port Road.

Run over

He had been walking behind a reversing trailer, towed by the prime mover, when he was struck and run over by the trailer, according to preliminary findings by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate.

Investigations were carried out immediately, after MOM was informed last Tuesday. All movements of vehicles within the premises of the accident were halted.

Last Thursday, a worker in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the forklift driver had suffered extensive injuries to his face.

He said security guards had cordoned off the area while waiting for the police.

A police spokesman said a call was received at about 4pm. Paramedics who arrived at the scene pronounced him dead.

Police are investigating the case as one of unnatural death.

On March 2, another worker was killed at around noon at a construction site along Kim Seng Road.

His body was found in a ventilation shaft at the site where the Centennia Suites condominium is being built. The development is expected to be completed by this year.

An MOM spokesman said preliminary findings revealed that the worker had been tasked to spray-paint the external walls of a mechanical ventilation compartment on the 37th storey of the building.

A worker at the site said that when the man was nowhere to be seen, his colleagues conducted a search for him.

He was found that afternoon inside the pit of a ventilation shaft on the ground floor of the condominium.

A police spokesman said that they received a call at around 2.30pm. SCDF officers got to the victim through an opening on the second storey, said a spokesman.

All works at the ventilation compartment and shaft were halted, said MOM.

Workers at that site told TNP that construction work was halted after the incident and resumed last Wednesday.

Mr Goh Chye Guan, the managing director of Total Safety Solutions, a company that provides training and consultancy in safety and health issues, said that the number of workplace fatalities so far this year was no cause for alarm.

The former director of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) council added that between 2005 and 2011, there were 55 to 71 workplace fatalities.

This translates to an average of 16 per quarter.

He said: "After September 2011, MOM extended its WSH act to cover more workplaces, such as schools and offices, not just places like factories, shipyards and construction sites.

"This could be the reason that there were six fatalities under the 'Others' category so far this year, which is quite high."

Concerned

Mr David Chiang, an associate trainer for the WSH programmes at private school Kaplan Professional, said that he is concerned about the number of deaths this year.

He stressed that the 10 deaths do not include injuries and near-misses.

"The additional figures will reveal something even more ominous, especially when we count near-misses as real cases," he said.

He added that issues such as badly maintained safety equipment, fatigue and exhaustion compromise safety.

For instance, he felt that safety procedures are often written in languages that most foreign workers may not understand, or are poorly translated and communicated.

He said: "Involving and allowing the workers to speak up regarding workplace safety will be a good start.

"Train them and allow them some levels of implementation of safety procedures - ownership of safety (leads to) better adherence to safety."

Mr Jolovan Wham, a social worker at migrant worker welfare group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, was also concerned about the 10 workplace deaths this year.

"The physical and psychological well-being of all workers need to be addressed if we want long-term and significant reductions in the number of workplace fatalities," he said.

"Every life is important."


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