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Speech at WSH Symposium: Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Manpower, Suntec Singapore

Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University
Distinguished speakers and guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon

  1. I am pleased to join you today at the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Symposium, with its main theme being: Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls. This Symposium marks the beginning of a year-long extensive engagement, with key events and educational efforts, to prepare stakeholders for the extension of Workplace Safety and Health Act by September 2011.
  2. Thus, by this time next year, a significant milestone in our WSH journey which started in 2005, will be achieved. The WSH Act will cover all workplaces in Singapore, benefiting an estimated 1.4 million workers across 16 industry sectors or about half of the workforce. This includes retail, entertainment, education, finance and the public service.

  3. Last year, these new sectors collectively contributed to 29% of all workplace injuries and 6% of workplace fatalities where four employees sadly lost their lives while on the job. The top three types of work incidents in these sectors are falls from height (21%), slips and trips (17%), and cut/stabbed by objects (11%). Today’s symposium focuses on slips, trips and falls as they account for more than one-third of injuries in these sectors. Comparison studies done with the more developed WSH leading countries, suggest that these statistics could potentially rise, if not contained comprehensively. Let me share with you some past incidents.
  4. In 2009, a seemingly simple and low risk task brought about a fatality at a country club’s coffee house. A senior steward was at the dish washing area of the kitchen when he slipped and fell while carrying a tray with glass wine goblets. The wine goblets shattered and he sustained fatal injuries in the neck area, as a result of excessive blood loss. My Ministry found that the employer failed to conduct risk assessment for work done in the kitchen area, and as such, the kitchen was not cleared of slipping and tripping hazards. While the employer was fined $80,000 for failing to keep its kitchen safe, the life lost could never be recovered.
  5. Last year, we saw two deaths arising from slips and trips in workplaces not yet covered by the WSH Act. In one case, a cleaner was killed after tripping at a rubbish chute area where he was carrying out work. In another, a delivery driver died from injuries following a slip at a loading and unloading area where he was delivering goods. More can be done to prevent such incidents, both on the part of employers and employees. Precious lives could have been saved and such accidents averted if all parties take responsibility to conduct risk assessment and put in place basic safety procedures. The speakers in today’s Symposium will offer some good practices that you can consider when planning the WSH management of your workplaces.

  6. To help all of you understand the WSH Act better and take the necessary measures to ensure workplace safety and health, my Ministry and the WSH Council will roll out three key initiatives in the next few months.

    WSH Clinics
  7. First, a series of ‘WSH Clinics’ will be opened to industry twice per quarter in the next 12 months. Additional runs will be conducted if industries require more assistance. The ‘WSH Clinic’ which is launched today serves as a platform where companies can educate themselves, seek expert advice and receive “prescriptions” on WSH issues at their workplaces. A key feature of the WSH Clinic is the free one-on-one advisory services. Experienced WSH consultants or professionals will be stationed to diagnose and provide solutions for employers and advise on various WSH aspects such as legislation, resources, funding and programmes available for WSH and work injury compensation.
  8. The WSH Clinic also provides linkages to other WSH service providers such as training providers, suppliers as well as other compliance assistance resources so that employers can better prepare themselves before the extension of the WSH Act. I strongly urge you to make full use of the WSH Clinics later during tea break. Details on subsequent WSH Clinics for the coming year will be published on the WSH Council’s website in the coming weeks.

    Informational package to employers of new sectors, including a WSH guidebook for new sectors
  9. Second, given the diverse profile and potential to gain better insight and understanding on WSH practices, we will be sending out informational packages to all employers from the new sectors. The informational package will include a WSH guidebook to common hazards, and a risk management checklist. You are amongst the first to receive this WSH guidebook today. Managing such risks at your workplaces need not be complex and the guidebook is a simple step-by-step booklet customised to help companies kickstart your WSH journey. It focuses on common hazards in these workplaces and appropriate control measures which employers and employees can follow in ensuring safety.
  10. I strongly urge you to internalise this handy and useful guide, and adopt the necessary measures that are relevant to your workplace. This will further allow you to better understand the process of Risk Assessment, and how you should identify all potential risks and hazards at the workplace. You can then devise appropriate intervention measures to mitigate these risks, and protect the safety of your employees.

    Innovative promotional activities
  11. Third, to raise employee awareness on the importance of WSH, we will go beyond leveraging on the traditional avenues for promotion such as the press and transit ads. One such approach is the introduction of “flash mob” skits to reach out to the masses in an unconventional, light-hearted and educational manner. The skits are 5-min dance performances that bring across WSH messages though role playing. They are easy to put up and will be conducted in public areas such as malls and food courts.
  12. Through the performances, audiences can learn how each stakeholder such as employees can be affected by common work hazards, and how they can do their part to watch out for the safety of their own and others. We will continue to explore new methods to reach out to the masses, of varying backgrounds and industries, with a view to remain adaptable and relevant in our efforts to educate with innovative techniques that appeal.

  13. I am glad to see an encouraging attendance today, signifying your keenness to acquire WSH knowledge early. The next 12 months will be crucial as we ramp up our efforts to raise overall awareness of WSH. I strongly urge all stakeholders to tap on the various initiatives and resources that I have mentioned earlier to educate yourselves and your employees on WSH as early as possible. All employees in Singapore have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Let us strive to make that a reality in the coming months for the industries in the new sectors. Thank you.