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Cases of occupational disease rise in first half of this year: MOM
 

Cases of occupational disease rise in first half of this year: MOM

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SINGAPORE — Fewer people died at their workplace in the first six months of this year, but the number of confirmed occupational diseases — including three cases of a cancer often caused by asbestos — increased starkly from the second half of last year. More focus should be placed on vehicular safety and health hazards at work, said Dr Gan Siok Lin, executive director of the Workplace Safety & Health (WSH) Institute, yesterday as the Government released national WSH figures for January to June this year. Employers and workers should improve risk communication, supervision and work coordination as “our analysis of fatal and major injuries had revealed these to be the main gaps”, she said. The 19 workplace deaths recorded from January to June this year marked an improvement from 24 deaths in the second half and 42 in the first half of last year, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said last month at an awards ceremony. Since last month, however, there have been high-profile incidents such as the partial collapse of an uncompleted viaduct at Upper Changi Road East that killed one worker and injured 10 others. Seven of the deaths from January to June resulted from being hit by moving vehicles, road accidents or being caught between vehicles. Falls, fires and explosions were behind some of the other deaths. The manufacturing sector had five deaths, as well as the highest number of workplace injuries and occupational diseases. It was followed by the construction, accommodation and food service, and transportation and storage sectors. The four sectors accounted for more than half (3,300 out of 6,151) the total workplace injuries and 73 per cent of occupational diseases (340 out of 467 cases). Occupational disease cases were 37 per cent higher than the 341 cases in the second half of last year. Noise-induced deafness was the top occupational disease (42 per cent), followed by work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back injuries from repetitive tasks or forceful exertions (38 per cent), and skin diseases such as eczema (11 per cent). Other occupational diseases included 10 cases of compressed air illness and seven of barotrauma, an injury caused by increased air or water pressure. The majority of these cases were from tunnelling projects in the construction sector, said the report. Notably, there were 19 cases of chemical poisoning (18 from the inhalation of carbon monoxide), and one case each of a lung disease called silicosis and excessive absorption of a substance called trichloroethylene (TCE), when none were reported last year. Exposure to TCE, mainly used in industrial de-greasing, is associated with several cancers including kidney and liver. There were also three cases of mesothelioma, a cancer involving the lining of the internal organs that is often caused by exposure to asbestos. From January to June, the Ministry of Manpower conducted more than 2,800 inspections. It unearthed 4,300 WSH violations and made 28 stop-work orders that lasted four weeks on average. In total, S$500,000 in composition fines were slapped on 190 firms. The infringements included unsafe storage and improper housekeeping. KENNETH CHENG
 
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7 Aug 2017 - General