Speech at Launch of the "Drive Safe, Work Safe" National WSH Campaign
Minister of State Sam Tan, Natsteel Holdings Pte Ltd
Mr Ashish Anupam, CEO of Natsteel,
Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Chairman of WSH Council,
Mr Melvin Yong, Director (Tripartism), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC),
Mr Chew Chee Leong, Chairman of NatSteel Employees’ Union,
Chairmen and Presidents of industry associations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning and thank you for inviting me.
- Today, I would like to talk about two key focus areas that we will look into to improve vehicular safety in workplaces. First, increasing awareness on key vehicular safety issues. Second, improving the design of the workplace to facilitate better traffic management.
Concerns on Vehicular Safety
- Why are we concerned with vehicular safety? Because for the past three years, vehicular related incidents has been the number one cause of workplace fatalities. In 2016, 22 workers were in fatal accidents caused by moving vehicles, a 47% increase from 2014. This figure is of grave concern. 2017’s figures, so far, does not look good either. In the first half of this year, there were 379 injuries and seven fatalities caused by vehicle-related incidents.
- The Ministry of Manpower views vehicular safety infringements in workplaces very seriously. Earlier this year, two companies were prosecuted for failing to take adequate safety measures, which had led to the deaths of prime mover drivers in separate incidents. One company was fined $80,000 while the other was fined $130,000. In June this year, we initiated an enforcement operation targeting over 250 workplaces with heavy vehicular traffic. Out of this operation, more than 300 enforcement actions had been taken against errant employers.
- Common violations uncovered during this enforcement operation include the lack of proper traffic planning practices, poor maintenance of vehicles and inadequate risk assessment. We will continue to take errant employers to task, but I think it is important that we step up efforts to increase awareness on key vehicular safety issues, such as blind spots, and to work with companies to design their workplaces better to facilitate good traffic management.
Drive Safe, Work Safe Campaign
- Today we launch the Drive Safe, Work Safe Campaign to raise awareness on the key risks associated with vehicular movement in workplaces. One of these risks is blind spot involving heavy vehicles, such as prime movers. While drivers are responsible for checking their blind spots before driving off, pedestrians should be equally responsible to check their surroundings when on the roads. It takes both parties to be aware of blind spots in order to prevent an accident. This is why the WSH Council has produced a new video to highlight good practices that drivers and pedestrians practice to avoid accidents. The video is available for download from the WSH Council website and Facebook page.
- We encourage companies to support this campaign by conducting senior management WSH walkabout to spot and mitigate potential vehicular hazards in their respective workplaces. Companies should also organise WSH briefings to highlight potential workplace traffic risks, good onsite and on-the-road traffic safety practices to their workers.
- The practice of Natsteel in getting Comfort DelGro to conduct training for their drivers and Traffic Police officers to conduct briefings on the dos and don’ts on the roads is a practice that should be emulated by companies. Natsteel is an excellent example of a company taking the lead in raising awareness of vehicular safety and conducting a management walkabout. I am looking forward to join your senior management in the walkabout later to see how Natsteel plans for traffic safety and to understand how technology is used to improve vehicular safety.
Designing our workplace better to facilitate good traffic management
- Other than increasing awareness through the campaign, we will launch the “Managing Onsite Vehicular Safety” (MOVeS) programme in September to help companies improve the design of their workplaces to facilitate better traffic management.
- Many onsite vehicular accidents happen as a result of poor traffic management, such as unclear demarcation of areas between vehicular and pedestrian movement. Under MOVeS, our WSH consultants will assess the work premises and provide guidance for companies in developing and implementing onsite traffic safety management plans at no charge.
- Technology can play a big part in improving vehicular safety. It helps reduce human errors which are often the causes of accidents. Bok Seng Logistics, for example, has installed fatigue management technology in some of their heavy vehicles. The technology will be able to detect moments when the driver feels sleepy. It will trigger an alert and the seat will vibrate to wake the driver. At the same time, real time information will also be sent to managers. Regular reports are then generated to study and analyse driving habits, identify poor performing drivers, and send them for retraining.
- We want to encourage more pervasive use of technology to improve vehicular safety in our workplaces. As announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2017 on 3 September, MOM has launched the WSH Technology Challenge to fund companies and research institutes to develop new technological solutions to deal with the issue of blind spots, unsafe driver behaviour and driver fatigue. We hope companies would come forward with innovative ideas to develop solutions to reduce the number of work-related vehicular accidents.
Together We Can Do More
- No man is an island and together we can do more. At the national level, we are working closely with our tripartite partners – SNEF and NTUC to spread the message on workplace safety and health. On vehicular safety, I am pleased to share that we have received strong support from associations and unions to promote vehicular safety. We will continue to work with NTWU, SLA, CDAS, STA, SAAA@Singapore, SCAL, and ASMI to rally their members to conduct WSH walkabout and briefings.
- Nevertheless, we do not need to wait for our associations and unions to rally us to improve the safety of our workers. Companies can also take initiatives to improve the safety of their drivers and workers. These initiatives need not be high-tech, complicated or sophisticated. Samwoh is a good example. To increase awareness of blind spots of vehicles, Samwoh has developed cautionary message stickers that are pasted on the sides of the truck to alert employees and pedestrians on the exact location of the trucks’ blind spots. Pedestrians and other drivers can then identify these blind spots and take caution or avoid these spots. I think it is a good initiative that we can learn and adopt.
- In conclusion, we can all prevent vehicular accidents if we take active steps to address vehicular risks and spread the message to all around us. Ultimately, it is up to us to exercise this responsibility. Together, we can ensure that every worker goes back home safe and healthy. Thank you!