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Speech at Closing Ceremony of the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2017

Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say, Sands Expo and Convention Centre

Dr Joachim Breuer, President International Social Security Association,

Ms Nancy Leppink, Chief of Labour Administration, International Labour Organisation

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

  1. Singapore is honoured to host this world congress and play our part in the global development of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). It has been four days of rich discussions and sharing. We benefited from the sharing by over 200 renowned international speakers across 30 symposia and technical sessions. We have also been inspired by the innovations showcased in the International Safety and Health Exhibition.

    Towards Vision Zero
  2. The sharing should not stop here, because Vision Zero is a journey with no end. As a global OSH community, we have improved from 13.8 fatalities per 100,000 employed persons in 2003 to 11.3 in 2014. Yet, the number of fatalities has actually increased from 358,000 in 2003, to more than 380,000 in 2014 due to an increase in the total number of workers. Globally, even though concerted efforts to improve OSH have raised awareness, strengthened capabilities and forged partnerships, much more still need to be done, in three areas in particular.
  3. First, commitment. We need to keep strengthening the commitment from all stakeholders – employers, workers and governments – that everyone has a role to play to enable all our workers return home safe and healthy every day.
  4. Second, the integration of workplace safety with workforce health, into “Total Workplace Safety Health”. We need to safeguard our workers’ health today to prevent accidents and occupational diseases tomorrow.
  5. Third, be more People-centred. This means moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to prevention of workplace accidents and ill-health. Instead, we should customise our approaches based on the characteristics of the workforce, such as their physical capabilities, level of skills and education.

    National, Regional & Global Approaches
  6. To succeed, we need to embrace Vision Zero at three levels.
  7. First, at the country level, we need each and every nation to step up our own efforts. Here in Singapore, we are committed to embrace Vision Zero. Ten years ago, we set ourselves a “WSH 2018” target of lowering workplace fatality rate from about 5 per 100,000 workers to 1.8 by 2018. We achieved 1.9 last year, and we are doing our best to go below 1.8 by next year.
  8. We will not stop there. Under WSH 2028, to be formulated by the tripartite partners of Singapore, our next target is to reduce it to less than 1 by 2028, as announced by our Prime Minister at the opening of this Congress. This is, no doubt, an ambitious target, but it is a worthy aspiration that we, the tripartite partners of Singapore, are determined to achieve, so that more of our workers can return home safe and healthy every day.
  9. Second, at the regional level, we can do more to learn from each other, and work with each other. Here in Southeast Asia, the ASEAN member states are determined to safeguard the safety and health of our workers, guided by our five-year Action Plans. In 2007, we committed ourselves to put in place a national OSH framework in all member states, identifying areas for further development – from OSH regulation, to enforcement policy, data availability, training and promotional efforts. We have completed this.
  10. In 2011, we further committed ourselves to raise the profile of OSH in ASEAN, especially among business. Companies participated in annual ASEAN OSH meetings to learn from each other and from international experts. We also encourage ASEAN companies to upgrade their OSH practices by recognising them with ASEAN OSH Awards.
  11. And in 2016, we took another step forward and committed ourselves to raise OSH standards and performance, build a stronger OSH culture among companies and workers, and widen regional and international collaboration. These efforts are well on track. Just a few days ago, the ASEAN Labour Ministers signed a joint statement to reaffirm our commitment to improving workplace safety and health, and to closer cooperation in building OSH capability here in ASEAN.
  12. As a member of ASEAN, Singapore will continue to contribute to regional efforts to enhance OSH capabilities in areas such as training of OSH inspectors, building companies’ expertise in risk management, and accreditation frameworks for OSH training providers. At the same time, we will also learn from our ASEAN neighbours on the management of OSH risks as well as innovative approaches and solutions to tackle OSH issues. Together, we will strive for our shared vision of making ASEAN a safer workplace for a healthier workforce.
  13. Third, at the global level, many countries and in many regions of the world, especially those present at this World Congress, are striving for Vision Zero too. To attain and sustain Vision Zero at the global level, we have to embed the prevention mindset among our youths. In Singapore, we build OSH awareness among students, and integrate OSH training in our tertiary education curriculum. For youth around the world, ILO is giving them a bigger voice in shaping OSH policies and solutions, right here at this Congress, before launching the Safe Youth@Work Action Plan next year. Our youth delegates have done well and come up with many innovative ideas during the Congress. We now count on you, our young ambassadors, to help shape the OSH culture of tomorrow, and to help grow and sustain OSH culture in your communities when you return home.
  14. Ladies and gentlemen, as a global OSH community, let us spur each other on in this global movement towards Vision Zero. With enlightened policy-making by governments, far-sighted action focus by companies, active participation by workers of all ages, and strong support from our international cheer-leaders ILO and ISSA, it is our hope that in 10 years’ time, we will see many more nations reducing their fatality rates progressively, from less than 3, to less than 2, and less than 1 per 100,000 workers.
  15. Together, we must take on the challenge of not just reducing the incidence of workplace injuries and occupational diseases, but to do so at a pace that is faster than the growth of the global workforce, so that we can reverse the trend, and reduce the number of workers affected by workplace injuries and occupational diseases every year.
  16. As we mark the end of this World Congress, Singapore would like to hand over to Canada, the host of the 22nd World Congress, a source of light – It represents the knowledge, lessons and friendships we have nurtured together at this Congress that we hope will continue to shine as we strive for a safer workplace and healthier workforce for all.
  17. Thank you all for joining us in Singapore. I wish you a safe journey home.
  18. See you all in Toronto in 2020.
Last Updated: 07 September 2017