This is a guest post contributed by Ling.
Earlier this month, the Workplace Safety and Health Council launched a “Safe Hands” campaign to raise awareness about hand and finger injuries that may lead to amputations.
Now if you’re thinking it’s a “lame” campaign and there’s no need to spend public funds to talk about workplace safety – you’d be surprised to know that safety is still not a top priority at many workplaces.
Here are some shocking facts about workplace accidents in 2017.
Warning: This is not for the faint-hearted.
42 tragic deaths at work
Last year alone, 42 workers died as a result of workplace accidents. Most of these fatal injuries were caused by work-related traffic, struck by moving objects, falls, and fires and explosions.
Here’s a real-life scenario of how someone got struck by moving objects:
A worker was using a cutting machine to slice aluminium strips for scraps. By right, there should have been a two-piece clamping device to clamp the work piece onto the worktop for cutting.
However, there was a gap of about 4mm between the worktop and clamping device piece so the work piece was not clamped down properly.
To everyone’s horror, the aluminium strip with sharp ends suddenly flew towards a drilling machine operator who was working nearby.
It pierced into his neck below his left ear and he died on the same day.
558 cases of major injuries
The top 3 sectors with the most number of major injuries are: manufacturing, construction and transportation & storage sectors.
Losing a limb is a serious matter.
But what’s more disturbing is that many of these accidents could have been prevented with safe workplace procedures.
Investigation show that 55 percent of the amputation injuries were due to inadequate safety provisions at work – i.e. lack of proper machine guarding and risk management .
In a blog post published last year, Labour MP Melvin Yong highlighted two real case studies that caused the workers to damage their fingers.
In one of the case studies, a worker was using a portable cut-off saw to cut some iron rods to a certain length.
The iron rods which he was grinding slipped and it caused his left thumb to come into contact with the fast rotating abrasive wheel.
His left thumb was severed.
Investigations later revealed that the self-adjusting safety guard on the cut-off saw was missing and the equipment was not used in accordance to manufacturer’s design and intended manner of use.
As office workers, we know how important each finger is to us especially when we are so reliant on our fingers to use the keyboard.
The same can be said for other workers who rely on their hands to operate machines or handle materials.
With missing finger(s), it won’t be easy for them to do the same job anymore.
Returning to Work
In Singapore, workers can claim compensation if they are injured in a work accident or suffered some diseases because of work – this is in accordance with the Work Injury Compensation Act.
However, the law does not help injured workers recover quickly and return to work.
According to Melvin Yong’s blog post, NTUC has been advocating Return-to-Work (RTW) practices.
Some countries have RTW coordinators to help injured workers recover faster through structured rehabilitation.
Employers will also help adjust their workplaces or redesign the jobs to help injured workers assimilate back to work.
NTUC is working closely with its tripartite partners to develop a comprehensive RTW framework in Singapore.
If that works out, workers who suffered major injuries at work will now have an ease of mind when returning to work.
Employers are hugely responsible for workers’ safety at work. If they fail to do that, it’s only right to help injured workers return to work without making them feel disadvantaged compared to other able-bodied workers.
Of course, the most ideal situation is to have zero workplace injuries.
To prevent workplace accidents, workers must follow safe work procedures. But management must set the tone and show its full commitment to safety.
All workers have the right to go to work happy and return home safely.
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