Occupational health in Singapore

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1998 Jul;71(5):295-301. doi: 10.1007/s004200050284.


Singapore, a newly industrializing country in Southeast Asia, has a resident population of 3 million and a work force of 1.75 million. Most workers are employed in the manufacturing, services, and commerce sectors. Agricultural and mining activities are negligible. In 1996 the infant mortality rate was 3.8 per 1,000 live births and the life expectancy at birth was 77 years. In 1996 the total industrial accident rate was 2.7 per million man-hours worked and the severity rate was 353 industrial man-days lost per million man-hours worked. The shipbuilding and construction industries had the most frequent and most severe accidents. In the same year, 1,521 cases of occupational disease were notified to, and confirmed by, the Ministry of Labor. The majority of cases involved noise-induced hearing loss. There is substantial underreporting of cases. New cases that are expected to appear will be work-related illnesses such as musculoskeletal or psychosocial disorders. The principal occupational health legislation in Singapore is the Factories Act. Although it selectively targets workers at highest risk of developing occupational illness, its main limitation is the exclusion of nonfactory workers, who comprise 63% of the working population. Labor regulations are enforced by the Ministry of Labor. Workmen's compensation paid in 1995 amounted to S $46.6 million (U.S. $1=S $1.75). Education and training in occupational health is provided by employer federations, employee unions, and various government agencies. Occupational health is taught to medical students during their undergraduate training. Postgraduate-diploma and Masters programs in occupational medicine are also available. About 600 doctors in Singapore have some form of postgraduate training in occupational health. Health care for workers is offered either through the private sector or through government clinics and hospitals. Although Singapore has made great strides in protecting and promoting the health of its workers, it must constantly strive to strengthen its commitment to occupational health and safety. New problems in the next century must be anticipated and solutions, implemented. Improved training and development of health professionals is needed such that they be better prepared to deliver optimal occupational health care. Finally, labor legislation must be appropriate and responsive to protect the health of all workers.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Singapore
  • Workers' Compensation