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Speech at Keppel Group Safety Convention

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre

Dr Lee Boon Yang, Chairman, Keppel Corporation

Mr Choo Chiau Beng, CEO, Keppel Corporation

Keppelites, ladies and gentlemen

  1. Good afternoon. I am pleased to join all of you today for the Keppel Group Safety Convention 2011. An initiative like this Convention is important for corporations to renew its commitment to safety and health at work and get all its employees on board.

    Global emphasis on OSH
  2. Over the past decades, significant progress has been made across nations in the area of workplace safety and health (WSH). This is mainly due to the heightened awareness and acknowledgement by governments and corporations on the consequences of poor safety and health standards. To name a few, poor safety affects productivity, workforce well-being, economic growth, sustainable development.
  3. However, while improvements have been made, they are not good enough. Millions of workers still suffer and continue to be at risk due to poor work conditions. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 2.34 million people died from work-related accidents or diseases in 20081. This translates to a staggering 6,300 work-related deaths every day, notwithstanding the varying degrees of under-reporting across countries. This has been further affected by global economic crises in recent years2.
  4. In view of this situation, governments must do more. The recent World Congress on Safety and Health at Work held in Turkey in September 2011 called for countries to build and maintain a global culture of prevention. Singapore is committed to this – we became a signatory of the 2008 Seoul Declaration at the Singapore WSH Conference last year in September. Our commitment means that we believe in improving safety and health at work and that it has a positive impact on working conditions, productivity, economic and social development.
  5. But, governments cannot do it alone. Hence, my Ministry and the WSH Council have worked hard to engage industry. And industry must not only be committed, it must also be able to effectively implement and execute measures to improve the WSH performance on the ground. We all need to do better to prevent work incidents. We need to put our workforce out of harm’s way.

    Employers must lead the way
  6. To prevent work incidents, a strong company culture in ensuring positive WSH outcomes is critical. For this to happen, commitment must come from stakeholders at all levels in a company. The top management must lead the way as these leaders decide on the organisation’s priorities. As one of Singapore’s largest home grown conglomerates operating businesses in multiple areas ranging from Offshore & Marine to Property to Energy, the Keppel Group’s commitment to safety can impact its workforce in its operations worldwide and create a strong company WSH culture.
  7. In this regard, I am glad to see that Keppel recognises safety and health as one of its key priority areas. The Keppel Group has maintained its focus on safety through an investment of more than $23 million dollars in safety in 2010, in comparison to the $9,783 million of the gross revenue generated. Some of Keppel’s key initiatives and good practices can also offer ideas for other companies to emulate. Examples include:

    • Establishing a group-wide Board Safety Committee (BSC) in 2006 to review and develop safety policies across multiple business units.

    • Developing a corporate-wide initiative in line with our National WSH 2018 strategy with the aim to implement uniform safeguards, increase accountability and promote ownership across business units.

    • Reviewing programmes through a 3-year group-wide self perception survey, site assessments and safety road map for individual business units.

    • Involving Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and Operational personnel as safety assessors in this review process so as to encourage ownership.

    • And finally, today, Keppel will launch an e-Safety portal, a HSE hub, to encourage active sharing on best practices and align a consistently strong safety culture across the Group. Through the Portal, Keppel’s Safety Champions will be able to access, contribute and share HSE information with other Keppelites more efficiently, through forums and links to other good web resources. This is timely in view of high internet penetration amongst the workforce.
  8. In addition to these group-wide initiatives, I would also like to thank Keppel Seghers Engineering’s involvement in a project with the WSH Institute. As a forerunner in operating waste incineration facilities, Keppel Seghers is working with WSHI to study contributing factors to work incidents and proposing medium to long term recommendations to enhance the safety of waste collection and unloading in incineration facilities. To ensure that the recommendations from the study will be relevant to the waste management industry, we will also consult multiple stakeholders from the industry on their viability as well as drive their implementation following the study’s completion.

    Constant vigilance and discipline
  9. And indeed, the key is always in the effective implementation of measures. Beyond management leadership and broad initiatives, our commitment must drill down to practical and sensible measures that affect real practices on-the-ground. There is also a need for constant vigilance, discipline and ownership at all levels such that safety becomes part and parcel of worker mindsets.
  10. Such mindsets are the way forward for Singapore’s marine sector. The sector has, over the years, made steady progress and embarked on many initiatives towards better WSH performance, such as making Risk Management capability such as bizSAFE Level 3 mandatory for its sub-contractors. Overall number of injuries has also declined following these initiatives.
  11. However, the sector’s progress in recent years appeared to have reversed itself. To-date, eleven fatalities have occurred in the marine sector this year, almost double that of last year’s 6 fatalities. The Keppel Group itself had to deal with workplace fatalities earlier this year where two workers died in separate accidents in Singapore. This is not a good sign and we cannot afford to ignore the trend and continue thinking that we are doing enough.
  12. My Ministry has, hence, carried out an enforcement exercise3 on 90 shipyards over a month from September to October, to understand the issues. Our inspectors uncovered similar areas of concern as our previous rounds of checks last year and early this year. We continue to see the same mistakes of the past. Key violations were inadequate risk assessment and safe work procedures for work done at height, crane activities, and electrical works. For these, they were fined. Warnings were also issued for failure to carry out noise monitoring, place hazardous substances under the control of a competent person and monitoring exposure to chemicals.
  13. The recurrence of similar issues on the ground suggests that having a safety system in place is not enough. The leadership must ensure proper follow-through. They must also constantly review processes and systems and make improvements in the work procedures to eliminate the chance of human error. Every single stakeholder must be reminded to stay vigilant and not be complacent even when there has been no incident. Many times, some of the very obvious aspects tend to get overshadowed in the course of work, due to time pressures or other human elements. These can contribute to lapses and lead to incidents. There is, therefore, a constant need to ensure that complacencies do not get entrenched within companies which have existing and robust systems.
  14. The safety message must be drilled into the last worker in the supply chain. We must remind workers of their roles in accident prevention and reinforce the message every single day. Similar to how my Ministry conducts inspections across workplaces, companies must do your own checks on your own work processes and make changes before things go wrong. Over time, you must also develop a culture where your workers can do this on their own, because they see the value of WSH and are assured that they can put safety first in all situations, with the full backing of their management.

  15. At the end of the day, there is simply no short cut to safety. It is an unending, tiring journey, but it is also worthy and important. I encourage the Keppel Group to continue its extensive efforts to improve the WSH outcomes, and urge it to drive these efforts further to the ground. Keppel can also spread its influence to its overseas units and share its experiences with the rest of the industry. We must all learn from one another so that we can avoid the same mistakes and improve together. In time, our efforts will help Singapore grow to become a centre of excellence in WSH, but more importantly, we will have kept everyone safe at work. I look forward to that. Thank you and I wish you a good learning session ahead.

1 Estimates of Fatal and Non-Fatal Accidents And Diseases, ILO Introductory Report: Global Trends and Challenges on Occupational Safety and Health: XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work: Istanbul Turkey, 11-15 September 2011 / International Labour Office - Geneva: ILO, 2011

2 Pan-European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health”, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2009

3 Refer to Annex A for factsheet and findings on the recent operations on the marine sector.

Annex A - Fact Sheet on Recent Operations on the Marine Industry