THE number of minor workplace injuries and cases of noise-related deafness has risen in the first half of the year.

This resulted in a 10 per cent rise in overall workplace injuries - despite a fall in the number of fatal and major injuries.

Preliminary figures released yesterday by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council and WSH Institute showed that minor injuries formed more than 90 per cent of all workplace injuries.

There were 5,001 minor injuries in the first half of the year, up from 4,494 in the first half of last year.

But the number of major injuries dipped to 246, from 253 previously.

This is the first year that the report has classified injuries as "major" or "minor", based on factors such as the nature of the injury and duration of medical leave.

Major injuries include burns with more than 20 days of medical leave, amputation and paralysis.

There were 26 workplace deaths in the first six months, down from 31 in the corresponding period last year.

But the Manpower Ministry's (MOM) WSH Commissioner Ho Siong Hin noted that although figures improved in the first half of the year, "there have been a number of serious accidents recently in July and August".

These include the East Village Hotel worksite fire on July 16 which injured 11 workers, and the Downtown Line scaffolding collapse two days later which killed two workers and injured eight.

Last month, MOM said it would be stepping up surprise worksite inspections.

In a statement accompanying yesterday's report, Mr Ho said the ministry is "gravely concerned" about the accidents in the second half of this year.

Enforcement efforts aside, he added that MOM will work closely with the WSH Council "to help workers learn how to work safely and raise safety concerns proactively".

The last category in the report looked at occupational diseases, which result from exposure to risk factors such as chemicals during work.

There were 603 cases in the first half of the year, up from 360 in the first half of 2011.

As in previous years, the majority of cases - 539 - were of noise-induced deafness. All but six were detected at an early stage and could be helped by treatment.

The report said the rise in early detection showed "greater awareness of excessive noise as a health hazard by employers and workers".

"Bosses now take this very seriously," said Mr Alfred Then, manager for health, safety, security and environment with engineering firm PEC.

His firm trains its workers on the proper use of protective equipment such as earplugs, and has shorter shifts for noisy work, to minimise exposure.

Such awareness has existed for years, said Singapore Institution of Safety Officers honorary secretary Edwin Yap.

But he said attempts to prevent deafness may have a long time lag. "It's an occupational disease, not really an injury. It takes years to develop."