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Speech at Programme-Based Engagement (ProBE) Plus Forum 2013

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Max@Atria at Singapore Expo

Industry Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you at today’s Programme-Based Engagement Plus (or ProBE Plus) Forum 2013.

    Industry’s role in improving WSH
  2. Under the ProBE Plus programme each year, the Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health (or WSH) Council identify key areas of concern to address the major causes of workplace accidents. We do so because it is important that you, as stakeholders, are aware of the main WSH issues we are seeing on a national level. I am glad to see so many of you today and it bodes well for the ownership that you have taken for the safety standards at your workplace.
  3. The ProBE Plus programme is all about active engagement, ownership and making a change. The idea is to raise capabilities to better manage WSH issues and reduce risks at our workplaces. To ensure that the proper measures are being adopted on the ground, MOM follows up the various engagement and capability building efforts with enforcement checks.
  4. In 2013, ProBE Plus will focus on areas that we are not unfamiliar with - working at heights and crane operations. Last year, we saw 17 fatalities due to falls and 5 due to crane-related accidents. While these numbers are lower than in 20111, these two areas still accounted for close to 40% of total workplace fatalities. This is not a small matter and I hope we can focus our attention on these two key areas. Let me share with you some upcoming initiatives to help industry address safety issues in these two areas.

    The need to better manage work at heights
  5. First, on work at heights. Since the formation of the industry-led National Work at Heights Taskforce2, much has been done to improve the management of Work at Heights (or WAH) issues. As a result, the number of WAH fatalities has fallen more than 35% from 27 in 2009 to 17 in 2012. WAH remains the top cause of work fatalities. More must be done to prevent falls. In a recent case, a worker was killed after falling 9 metres from a ceiling catwalk. He was climbing over the ceiling catwalk to carry out maintenance work when he lost his balance. This accident could have been prevented if the worker had been given a safer way to access his work area or donned a safety harness.
  6. To better regulate work at heights practices, MOM announced earlier a dedicated set of Work at Heights regulations. The new regulations will come into effect from May. However, key requirements such as Fall Prevention Plan and Permit-to-Work system will only take effect one year later in 2014. This will allow industry time to have your people trained and qualified. To support industry’s implementation of the requirements and help stakeholders comply with the upcoming regulations, several capability building initiatives will be launched today.
  7. The WSH Council is issuing the revised Approved Code of Practice (or ACOP) on working safely at heights today. The ACOP has been updated to be aligned with the new Work at Heights regulations, providing guidelines, examples and further elaboration of key statutory requirements. I know this will be welcomed by the industry, to assist in your comprehension and compliance with the regulations.
  8. MOM and the WSH Council have also completed the National Work at Heights Competency Framework – the first of its kind targeting a specific area of work. The framework aims to train and equip all four key levels of staff – workers, supervisors, assessors and managers – with essential knowledge and skills on work at heights safety. All the curriculums for the four levels are ready and training providers are offering the courses for those keen to be the first to register. I urge all stakeholders to find out more about the courses from the training providers present at the exhibition outside.
  9. The first course to kick-off will be the Enhanced Construction Safety Orientation Course (or CSOC) that will start from 1 May this year. The course has been bumped up from a one-day to a two-day course to allow workers to receive more in-depth and detailed training to carry out work safely, particularly in the area of working safely at heights.
  10. To ensure that all the courses are well conducted and fulfil their objectives, a new Work at Heights Train-the-Trainer course was recently conducted, with more runs planned later this year. By keeping our trainers up-to-mark on WAH fundamentals, principles and competencies, we can then be assured of the quality of training and that trainers are well equipped to educate others effectively in safe work at heights.

    Addressing crane safety through capability building
  11. Let me now move on to crane safety. Cranes are a common sight in both work and public areas. Due to their large size, even the smallest safety lapse could potentially cause a catastrophic accident. We have seen many crane accidents happen, due to various factors, which could all have been avoided. MOM and the WSH Council-led National Crane Safety Taskforce have rolled out initiatives to create greater awareness, build capability and strengthen standards and practices within the crane industry.
  12. And, with strong industry support, crane fatalities fell from a high of 10 in 2009 to 5 in 2012. A reduction in numbers is still little consolation to affected workers and their family members. In addition, the number of dangerous occurrences involving the collapse of cranes remains high at 18 cases in 2012, even though this was much lower than the 26 cases back in 2010. Recently, we saw two such dangerous occurrences. In December last year, a crane toppled next to a playground in a residential estate. Another case occurred in January this year where a crane toppled in a worksite of a hospital. While most of these cases, fortunately, did not hurt anyone, they could have led to severe consequences if there have been workers or children nearby. We must do better to manage crane safety.
  13. We had earlier enhanced the regulations governing crane operations, mandated the need for lifting plans, developed an ACOP on Safe Lifting Operations as well as enhanced the series of training courses for the lifting team. Today, I am glad to share that WSH Council will soon launch a pilot course for Appointed Persons3 for lifting operations. Simple routine lifting operations typically involves the general lifting team. However, for more complex lifting operations, an appointed person should be additionally designated to work with the lifting team to plan and develop a safe system of work for the lifting operation. The new course is intended to equip lifting practitioners with relevant knowledge and skills to undertake this role to better plan and coordinate complex lifting operations safely.

  14. Much of what I have highlighted today cannot work without the commitment and involvement from each one of you present. We must raise our commitment to ensuring that our workplaces and the equipment that we use are safe for our workers and the people around our workplace. I hope we can count on your support so that, with the government and industry both playing our parts, we can work together towards workplaces that are safe from falls and crane accidents. We owe it to our workers and ourselves to be even more committed to ensuring that our workplaces are safer. Thank you.

1 In 2012, there were 17 fatalities due to falls and 5 due to crane activities, down from 26 and 6 in 2011 respectively.
2 The National Work at Heights Taskforce was formed in 2009.
3 An Appointed Person for Lifting Operations is a competent person with sufficient training, technical knowledge and experience, responsible for the planning and development of a safe system of work for complex lifting operations.