Preliminary findings from a study of workplace injuries and ill-health in 2011 reveal that slightly more than half of total costs fall on workers themselves, when quantified into dollar terms. Since low-wage foreign workers tend to be the ones doing the dangerous jobs, they suffer injuries and ill-health disproportionately. Now they — the least able to bear the costs — are shown to be the ones burdened with much of them.

WSHI_2011_studyThe report was produced by the Ministry of Manpower-linked Workplace Safety and Health Institute (WSH Institute). Strangely, the preliminary report (click thumbnail) does not provide any figure as to the number of injuries or work-related illnesses.

The report notes that only the human cost has been factored into this study.  The cost of property damage, and human pain and suffering, have not been taken into account.

Economic costs are divided into three categories:

  • Costs borne by employers: staff turnover, training of replacement workers, loss of worker output, insurance premiums and legal costs incurred;
  • Costs borne by workers: loss of future earnings, additional expenses for medical treatment and rehabilitation beyond that covered by compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act;
  • Costs borne by the community: social payouts, cost of incident investigation, workplace inspection and promotion activities by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and WSH Council, loss of human capital for fatal cases, and medical subsidies.

The study found that, excluding lifetime costs, “the cost for work injuries and ill health sustained for 2011 is estimated [to be] $2.62 billion, with employers bearing 88.2% of cost, employees 9.5% and the community 2.3%.”


However, when future lifetime costs are included, “the total cost of work injuries and ill health is estimated to be SGD$10.45 billion. The costs borne by different economic agents were estimated to be: SGD$2.31 billion (22.1%) by employers; SGD$5.28 billion (50.5%) by workers, and SGD$2.87 billion (27.4%) by the community.”

The study did not contain any recommendation for policy changes.