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Speech at Official Launch of SMESAFE@UE

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Health And Manpower), Rochester Project

Mr Tan Ngiap Joo, Group Chairman, United Engineers Limited

Mr Jackson Yap, CEO, United Engineers Limited

Industry partners

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning

  1. Let me start by congratulating United Engineers Limited (UEL) for being conferred the bizSAFE Mentor status on 20 January during the bizSAFE Convention 2011. This prestigious title positions UEL as a workplace safety and health (WSH) front-runner in the construction industry and a responsible business partner.

    Importance of WSH to business
  2. Why is WSH so important for businesses to ensure profitability and productivity? Let me explain. A good safety record enhances a company’s reputation both locally and internationally, helps to attracts new business and shows it is well-managed by a team of responsible leaders. Companies with workplace incidents and fatalities are naturally less productive, not only because they would be issued temporary stop work orders, but also because they are more likely to be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations as a result.
  3. I understand that UEL, for instance, has taken steps to enhance its safety management as a responsible employer and business partner. These efforts have borne fruit. From 2008 to 2010, UEL has reduced its reported work incidents by 30% and halved its lost man days due to work injuries. Such improvements have enhanced the company’s reputation and well positioned UEL for growth locally and in the region.

    Singapore’s WSH performance
  4. The WSH commitment by companies like UEL has helped lower our national fatality rate to a new low of 2.2 in 2010. Despite the improved WSH landscape, we need to stay on this path and continue to press on with improvements. The Ministry is particularly concerned about safety in the construction sector. Unlike other sectors, construction saw a stagnation with the same number of fatalities in 2010, compared to 2009.
  5. Just this month alone, the sector saw two dangerous occurrences. A crane in a worksite in Joo Chiat toppled and its boom hit a three-storey building next to it. The incident badly damaged the building’s roof and residents had to be evacuated. In another incident, about a hundred large concrete blocks toppled from a construction site over at Gilstead Road – a public road which had to be closed to traffic for several days. Fortunately, in both incidents, no one was hurt. The outcome could have been very different. The businesses involved in the incidents, however, did suffer losses due to damages and work stoppage. We can better prevent such incidents and make a big difference if everyone - developers, contractors, project managers, safety personnel, supervisors and workers - puts safety as a top priority and alert responsible parties to dangers. This cannot wait and the construction sector must put in more effort in to WSH, starting today.

    Large companies lead the way
  6. I call on leading stakeholders in the construction sector to take greater ownership and lead the way. For example, as a buyer of services, large organisations like UEL must be a WSH role model and shape the WSH management by their SME subcontractors. At least 100 large companies, including UEL, have signed up as bizSAFE partners and tapped on the bizSAFEprogramme to help their subcontractors improve. These front-runners made it a contractual requirement for their subcontractors and business associates to attain at least bizSAFE level 3 or the equivalent of having implemented risk management. This ensures that their SME subcontractors have implemented the necessary measures to keep work risks at bay.
  7. 12 companies including UEL, have pledged their commitment one step further by becoming bizSAFE Mentors1. As a bizSAFE Mentor, UEL has met and demonstrated all the criteria expected of a WSH leader in its industry. It is one of the signatories of the WSH Council’s Pledge for Zero CEO Commitment Charter2. To achieve the goal of zero injuries, UEL has kick-started a five-year work plan in 2009 to reduce its accident frequency rate to below 1.5 by 2015. It has engaged all of its 300 SME partners, starting them on the bizSAFE journey to improve their safety management. UEL has also hosted a number of workplace visits to share its best practices — the latest was conducted during the bizSAFE Convention last week and attended by over 50 companies.
  8. Besides being conferred the bizSAFE Mentor status, UEL is going one step further. It has allocated $50,000 to a new SmeSAFE@UEL programme to help its SMEs improve safety. SMEs participating in this programme will receive free advice and guidance on WSH improvements. They will also be able to undertake WSH Education and Training at a reduced cost and offered free consultation to help them attain OHSAS 18001 certification. As a show of commitment and ownership, these SME bosses themselves have formed a SmeSAFE@UEL steering committee. They will be guided under the able leadership of Mr Jackson Yap, CEO of UEL and also a member of the WSH Council.

  9. I applaud UEL on its WSH efforts to date and wish its management all the best in its journey moving forward. At this site today, we are celebrating 2.5 million accident free man-hours at this Rochester Project – a laudable achievement. I believe that UEL will be able to repeat this success at its other projects and meet the zero injuries goal it has committed to under the Pledge for Zero initiative. I strongly urge more companies to follow UEL’s example and take up a mentorship role when working with their subcontractors to manage and improve WSH standards. Thank you.

1A bizSAFEMentor is a role model and exhibits exemplary practices to nurture both its business partners and the industry-at-large. This is the mark of a responsible corporate citizen, willing to go far beyond its immediate sphere of influence to support the national WSH vision.

2The “Pledge for Zero” CEO Commitment Charter was launched by WSH Council in November 2008 with the first batch of 21 signatories from key developers and main contractors of the construction sector. The signatories committed to taking efforts and investing resources to strive for zero injuries in their worksites. Such efforts include programmes like SmeSAFE@UEL.