Speech at Launch of National WSH Campaign 2012
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State (Manpower and National Development), Event Atrium, Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC)
Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Acting Chairman, WSH Council
Mr Tan Kwang Cheak, Singapore National Employers Federation
Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, National Trades Union Congress
Members of the Workplace Safety and Health Council and Committees
Industry leaders, supporters,
Ladies and gentlemen,
- Good afternoon. Let me echo Mr Heng's thanks to all of you for joining us at today's launch. All of you play a critical role in keeping your people safe and alive. Just as the saying "safety begins at home" reminds us to keep our families safe, given that we spend a better part of our day at the workplace, "safety continues at the workplace" would be an important call for us to really take this seriously.
- Remember, one life lost is one life too many. One injury that maims can be a lifetime of misery. We need to stop taking things for granted. We need to stop assuming and start taking more serious action to further reduce such incidents.
- This is why this year's campaign message is "Stop the Assumptions. Stop Work Accidents". We must be vigilant and not assume that all safety and health considerations have been addressed or that someone else will take care of them. What happens if something happens to you? What is the impact on your family? There is always a story behind every statistic. And many lives are involved. The impact is always emotional and life-changing. While Singapore has made significant progress over the past five years in reducing fatalities and injuries, all of us must go further. And we should. We owe it to our loved ones and the families of our colleagues and workers to do more.
- There is no room for complacency. Rather, there is room to continue reducing fatalities and injury and we can do so by raising awareness and capabilities, addressing unsafe work practices and cultivating safety mindsets. Mr Heng had earlier elaborated on engaging SMEs, I will highlight two initiatives – how we aim to raise standards through capability building and encourage the public's involvement to address unsafe work practices.
Improving workplace health management through competent Occupational Health Professionals
- The first initiative relates to enhancing our professionals' capabilities to manage workplace health. During the International Advisory Panel meeting last year, the experts advised that we should start looking after the health of all workers, from the time they enter the workforce, so that they can work without impairment throughout their careers and retire fit and healthy. The idea is not just to be safe during the working day but over the whole working life. For most of us, at least one-third of our day is spent in the workplace. Hence, exposures and practices at the workplace will naturally have an impact on our health. Against the backdrop of rapid changes in technologies, an ageing workforce, higher life expectancies and more re-employed workers, thanks to the recently introduced re-employment legislation, Singapore needs more competent occupational safety and health professionals to manage workplace health concerns. They can identify and mitigate workplace health risks so as to prevent occupational diseases and work-related disorders.
- We will now introduce a new Occupational Hygiene Professionals WSQ Framework that will train occupational safety and health professionals to address multi-disciplinary workplace health issues. This framework was jointly developed by WDA, MOM, WSH Council and the WSH Manpower, Skills and Training Council. The WSQ Specialist Diploma in Occupational Hygiene is a qualification offered under the framework. The pilot run attracted over 70 applicants for 20 training places. Today, I am pleased to present the certificates to the first batch of graduates.
- Mr Francis Ong, Vice President of Operations at Halcyon Offshore Pte Ltd, is one of them. With what he learnt, Mr Ong implemented an effective Occupational Hygiene Management System, which helped to protect workers by looking at concerns such as ergonomics, chemical exposure and biological hazards. He looked after his colleagues by improving the workplace health and well-being of his co-workers. He also found that working processes became more efficient and increased productivity. It also raised morale in the organisation as colleagues felt valued and looked after.
- Besides this training, the Council's Workplace Health Committee also rolled out various guides last year, such as the Workplace Health Kit which focused on chemical and noise hazards and the Guidelines on Occupational Diseases on how to recognise, diagnose and manage occupational and work-related diseases. These materials are available on the Council's website1.
SNAP@MOM – Engaging and encouraging mass involvement
- Encouraging the involvement of stakeholders is another way to drive industry ownership of safety and health outcomes. This is in line with our campaign message this year, to keep WSH top-of-mind for the public beyond just awareness. We are upping the ante by encouraging stakeholders and the public to spot and provide feedback on unsafe acts and conditions to occupiers and employers. Such active citizenry efforts will help employers take the corrective actions needed to improve WSH conditions in the workplace. As our workforce and public make conscious efforts to rectify unsafe work practices, we can build a sustainable safety culture in our workplaces and achieve lasting improvements.
- We have developed 'Snap@MOM', a new smart phone application, to allow the users to report unsafe acts or conditions as well as share good work practices that they witness. This is how it works. Anyone with a smart phone can download the application from the Apple or Android app store. Users just need to snap a picture of an unsafe act or a good practice, use the application's GPS to highlight the location and send it with a short description via the app. The feedback will then be sent to the occupier or owner of the workplace to take immediate action.
- Working with the WSH Council, MOM conducted a short pilot over the last two months with selected groups, such as WSH professionals, to test the feasibility of the application. We also invited many occupiers and owners to register with SNAP@MOM so they can receive the alerts once a photo has been submitted. During the pilot, 661 people subscribed to the app, 180 occupiers registered, and about 280 unsafe acts or best practices were received. All of the valid feedback was successfully addressed by the occupiers or owners directly.
- Through SNAP@MOM, we aim to involve all stakeholders, including the public in spotting unsafe work and hence, becoming more aware of possible hazards around them and taking action when needed. At the same time, owners and occupiers can tap on this platform to garner good feedback so that they can improve and address any issues uncovered. MOM will continue to facilitate this to inspire all to play their part responsibly.
- I would like to invite all of you to download this app today. For a start, help us spot work at heights issues that have consistently been a top contributor of work fatalities. For example, if you spot a worker in an unsafe situation without proper fall prevention equipment, snap a photo and send it. We want to build a culture that does not tolerate unsafe work practices. You can also drop by the SNAP@MOM booth should you need assistance in using the app. We look forward to all of you "snapping" your way to do your part for WSH!
- I would like to conclude by saying that creating awareness, inculcating proactive behaviour and raising competencies are critical in our bid for safer and healthier workplaces. All these must be supported by committed employers, professionals and employees. I look forward to your support in the year ahead. Thank you.
1 The Workplace Health materials are available on the WSH Council website at https://www.wshc.sg/workplacehealth
Factsheet on SNAP@MOM