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$68m paid to workers in accidents

Migrant workers' help groups still call for greater efforts to reduce injuries at workplace. -TNP
Benson Ang

Mon, Aug 06, 2012
The New Paper

If you suffer a permanent incapacity while working, you can get compensated.

If you die while working, your dependents can get compensated.

Three workplace accidents occurred in the last two weeks, and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has confirmed that workers are entitled to claim - from their employers or insurers - medical leave wages, medical expenses and compensation for permanent incapacity or death, if applicable.

They can make the claims under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica), even if their employment or workpass has been terminated, said the MOM website.

A total of $68 million was awarded for compensation for permanent incapacity and death last year, revealed last year's Occupational Safety and Health Division Annual Report.

The figure was $76.5 million in 2010, $75.7 million in 2009 and $61.1 million in 2008, according to annual reports from the previous years.

Last year, 61 workers were killed at work and 121 workers sustained permanent disablements at their workplaces.

The number of workers killed at work was 55 in 2010, 70 in 2009, and 67 in 2008.

Compensation amount

For accidents that happened before June 1, compensation for a worker's death ranges from $47,000 to $140,000.

Compensation for permanent incapacity can go up to $180,000. An additional 25 per cent is given if an injured employee suffered total permanent incapacity.

The limits were revised on June 1.

For accidents that happened on and after this day, compensation for a worker's death ranges from $57,000 to $170,000, and the limit for permanent incapacity compensation is $218,000.

The greatest number of workplace fatalities last year took place in the construction, marine and manufacturing industries.

Workers killed or injured at work tend to be foreigners who undertake manual work, two non-government agencies told TNP.

These groups, which help migrant workers here, are calling for greater efforts to reduce the number of workplace injuries.

The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) feels that the number of casualties can be reduced if more attention is drawn to the exploitation of workers and the fatigue they experience at work.

Home's executive director, Mr Jolovan Wham, 33, said it isn't uncommon for foreign workers to work up to 12 hours or more a day, seven days a week.

He said: "Many foreign workers also don't receive quality rest and sleep as they live in cramped, unhygienic surroundings infested with bed bugs and pests.

"Lack of sleep and rest will have a significant impact on a worker's alertness at work and accidents can happen as a result."

Another migrant workers' group, Transient Workers Count Too, agreed.

Its immediate past president, Mr John Gee, 58, said accidents can be reduced by ensuring that rigorous safety standards are one of the basic requirements to be met by employers seeking to get contracts.

Mr Gee also suggested for more unannounced health and safety inspections to be conducted and greater active intervention by labour unions.

Both groups stressed that workers' needs were paramount.

Mr Wham said about 60 workers approached Home this year for assistance on workplace injury-related matters.

The executive director of the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), Mr Edwin Pang, said: "It's only right that the workers or their compensated financially, bearing in mind that the money will not be able to replace lives or limbs lost.

'One too many'

"The MWC will continue to work strive towards a zero accident rate at the workplace because one worker maimed or killed is simply one too many."

Associate Professor Ravi Chandran from the National University of Singapore's Business School told TNP that the vast majority of employers have to buy insurance policies for their workers.

Compensation is paid out through these policies, added the lecturer who teaches labour law.

The compensation amount provided under Singapore law is likely to be less than in other developed countries like Australia, he said.

But Mr Chandran noted that in some cases where the fault of the injury is due to inadequate safety measures, employees may be able to sue their employers for much larger amounts than that provided under Wica.

On Thursday, a man was injured when part of the disused UIC Building carpark collapsed during demolition works.

The incident came after a fire broke out at East Village Hotel on July 16 and a scaffolding collapsed at the Downtown Line's Bugis station on July 18.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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