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Speech at BizSAFE Convention 2011

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower , Suntec Singapore Ballroom 2

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Members of the Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning.


  1. First, I would like to thank Chairman Tzu Yang and members of the Workplace Safety and Health Council, for your relentless efforts in rallying businesses and workers to make Singapore's workplaces safe and healthy.

    WSH and Business
  2. This morning, we are here to re-affirm our commitment towards managing safety and health risks at work. I am happy to announce that our national fatality rate has fallen from 2.9 per 100,000 employed persons in 2009 to a new low of 2.2 in 2010. This means we are on track for achieving our WSH 2018 goal of attaining world class safety standards with 1.8 fatalities per 100,000 employed. However, each of the 54 workplace fatalities last year is a sombre reminder that there is still much that needs to be done. As employers and business leaders, the decisions we make can have a great impact on our organisation, society, and our workers. When we talk about safety and health, we are not just talking about meeting business bottom-line or statistics. We are talking about lives and livelihoods.
  3. This is especially so as experience tells us that workplace accidents are costly, involving man-hours lost and temporary stop-work orders that impact productivity. Only by taking steps such as risk assessments from the on-set to mitigate workplace risks can we effectively prevent accidents and save lives.
  4. Investing in safety and health can indeed benefit your business. Research1 has shown that efforts made to improve safety and health management also improved productivity and business performance. Conversely, failure to devote resources in safety and health can lead to significant business costs downstream, such as employee compensation, absentee turnover, lost productivity and damage to reputation. The loss of lives, money and reputation was seen in the disastrous Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year. We do not need another billion-dollar incident to remind us of the importance of safety.

    Enhancing the Risk Management Assistance Fund
  5. We also recognise that small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs may, in the initial stages, lack the resources and know-how to put in place effective risk management that is critical to ensure safety. To help SMEs, the Risk Management Assistance Fund (or RMAF) managed by the WSH Council was introduced. RMAF provides subsidies for SMEs to seek assistance from approved risk consultants. Since 2006, the Fund has benefited some 2,000 SMEs with nearly $13 million disbursed. One such SME is Henry Gas Distributor which provides Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders to dealers and customers in the food and beverage industry. With $6,000 RMAF funding, Henry Gas successfully implemented risk control measures to provide proper access to storage areas as well as prevent the toppling of cylinders during loading and unloading. To benefit more SMEs like Henry Gas, I am happy to announce that the government will top up the RMAF with a further $11 million, to be disbursed over the next 3 years till 2014. This brings the total fund amount to $24 million and we expect the Fund to benefit about 4,000 SMEs.
  6. We have also enhanced the RMAF scheme2. First, we will link the granting of RMAF funding assistance to the bizSAFE programme. After receiving in-principle approval for the Fund, RMAF applicants must now attain bizSAFE Level 3, which means they must have implemented risk management, before the funds are disbursed to them. Successful applicants can claim up to $6,000, or up to 90% of the risk consultancy costs. Another enhancement is the funding for risk management audits. Specifically, SMEs can now apply for bizSAFE Level 3 and RM audit funding of up to $800. As mentioned by Tzu Yang, bizSAFE level 3 is gradually being accepted as an industry benchmark for good WSH practices, and is now required by our 100 bizSAFE partners as a contract requirement. Future RMAF applicants would therefore not only be able to build up their RM capabilities, but also be recognised for their WSH efforts and achievements, improve their competitiveness and benefit from exclusive business opportunities from these partners.
  7. Beyond funding, I am also pleased to note that the Council is providing further guidance on risk management to the industry. Developed with industry-wide expertise across major industry sectors, the Council's new Approved Code of Practice on Risk Management offers a comprehensive and clear process to guide stakeholders on the management of safety and health risk at the workplace. I urge you to visit the Council's website to access the comprehensive list of resources3.

    Gearing Up for WSH Act Extension from September 2011
  8. My Ministry also takes risk management seriously ourselves. Since 2009, we have set up a WSH Committee to keep the Ministry and our staff safe and healthy, including implementing risk management. But, we recognised that there is scope for us to do more. Last year, MOM signed up as a bizSAFE Partner and took active steps to engage the 400 companies that we contract for various projects. By September 2011, MOM will require all our contractors to have minimally attained bizSAFE level 3. By taking the lead, we hope to inspire other public service organisations and large companies to similarly leverage on their position as buyers to help their contractors improve WSH management.
  9. My Ministry and the WSH Council have been working hard over the past year to get employers ready when the WSH Act will be extended to all workplaces from September this year. Over 100,000 businesses have received mailers on employers’ responsibilities under the WSH Act, and the WSH Council guidelines on managing common WSH hazards, like slips, trips and manual handling of objects. For businesses seeking further assistance, we have rolled out one-on-one WSH advisory services in the Ballroom next door. I urge you to take advantage of the experienced consultants present.
  10. Besides reaching out to management and companies, we also need to engage our workforce. To raise awareness, the Council has been putting up attention grabbing performances such as "flash mob" skits at high traffic areas to highlight to workers common work hazards. These skits have reached over 50,000 people in office areas and public spaces like MRT stations and bus interchanges. More of such performances will be rolled out in the coming months. By engaging employees, we will help to foster a workforce that will take greater personal responsibility for safety, nurture a strong safety and health culture and bring about safer and healthier workplaces for all.

  11. In closing, I urge business owners to take concrete steps to ensure the safety and health of your employees. You can be assured that my Ministry and the Council will be there to help you along every step in this meaningful and crucial safety journey. I wish you a fruitful Convention. Thank you.


1 United States Department of Labor
Health and Safety Executive
2 Please refer to Annex for more information on the enhancements.
3 Please refer to the WSHC
website for more information on risk management.