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Welcome Remarks by BG (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State (Manpower and National Development) at the "Launch of WSH Nation", 30 September 2011, 1pm, Orchard Road – junction crossing to Paragon and Mandarin Gallery

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Deputy Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council
Mr John De Payva, President, NTUC

Industry leaders, partners, one and all

  1. Good afternoon. Thank you for joining me today to support workplace safety and health (also better known as WSH).

    Importance of workplace safety and health
  2. Early this month, we achieved a major milestone in Singapore's WSH journey when the WSH Act was extended to all workplaces to protect all employees. Work incidents affect everyone. For employees, it could mean loss of lives, as well as pain and suffering for themselves and their loved ones, on top of jeopardising their future career and income prospects. For business owners and employers, it means loss in productivity, profits, reputation, and business opportunities.
  3. In the first half of this year, 30 employees died at work, 48 had permanent injuries and almost 4,700 had temporary injuries. What do the numbers really mean? This means that every day, almost 30 people were injured at work. More than 40% of work injuries happened in sectors like wholesale, retail and services, which were recently covered under the Act. Safety should be a matter of concern not only for sectors like Construction and Marine; but it should also be equally important at all workplaces as anyone can get hurt in an unsafe workplace.
  4. For example, early this year, an electrical store employee was changing a spoilt light tube alone in a store, when he fell while climbing a ladder. He suffered dizziness, had a bleeding nose and was on medical leave for 14 days. Another employee of a large supermarket was loading boxes of bottled drinks when some boxes fell on another colleague nearby, cutting her head and bruising her back. In another case, an office lady stood next to another colleague's table to answer a phone call. After the call, she tripped and fell on her face when her foot was entangled with the phone cable. An even more avoidable incident happened in June when a bus ran over a driver's arm after he tripped and fell. He subsequently passed away.
  5. All these incidents could have been prevented if we had taken simple steps to manage work risks and improve work procedures for safer outcomes. It could have been as simple as having one person keeping the ladder stable while another colleague is climbing. We should also practise good housekeeping of store areas and ensure that the stacking of boxes is done safely to prevent injuries to staff around the area.

    Engaging companies and employees
  6. Eliminating injuries at the work place begins first by anticipating and addressing the areas of risk. To help companies implement risk management (RM), the WSH Council has self-help RM templates and examples that companies can download online and implement at the workplace. Companies can also take part in the WSH clinics organised by the Council. Those who require more assistance can tap on the Risk Management Assistance Fund (RMAF) designed to help SMEs to build in-house risk management abilities. Since 2006, we have disbursed close to $12 million under RMAF and helped some 2,000 SMEs.
  7. One such SME is Creative Pest Management, which received $6,000 funding under RMAF. The funds allowed Creative Pest Management to improve its work processes. It made small but important changes like levelling the ground, removing clutter from the walkway, enforcing good housekeeping, storing and using chemicals properly.
  8. It's not just companies who have a role to play. Employees must also be alert and do your part to work safely because, at the end of the day, your own well-being is at stake. My Ministry and the Council are going all out to get everyone on board the WSH journey. You see our messages on street-lamps, buses, trains and on TV. We also have flash mob skits in public areas and WSH Messengers visiting workplaces and educating employees about work hazards.

    WSH Nation – where safety and health comes first
  9. Safety and health is an important part of our lives but it need not be only about rules and procedures. It can be fun as well! Today, I'm very pleased to bring to you the Council's latest online initiative - WSH Nation1 — a virtual world where all its citizens put safety and health first. When you enter WSH Nation, you can create an avatar that represents you. You can customise this avatar – whether it is facial features, occupation or voice. Once you pledge to say no to all risks at work with your avatar, you become part of WSH Nation.
  10. I am pleased to kickstart this journey today. To the representatives from 60 companies and associations here, I thank you in advance for your support and look forward to meeting you and your avatars in WSH Nation. After creating your avatars, you can also update your Facebook to encourage co-workers, friends, families and even your children to pledge their commitment. Don't just stop there, do visit WSH Nation again as we will include new interactive features such as games and applications.
  11. WSH Nation citizens are fully committed to stop all unsafe work practices. Our vision is to translate this from reel-to-real life as well, in line with our aim to make all workplaces in Singapore safe for you and your family. Thank you.

1 For more information on WSH Nation, please refer to Annex A.