Speech at Closing of the Singapore WSH Conference 2014
Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Suntec Singapore
Mr Moussa Oumarou, Director of the International Labour Organization Governance and Tripartism Department
Dr Ivan Ivanov, World Health Organization
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council
Members of the MOM’s International Advisory Panel for WSH
Distinguished speakers, moderators and delegates of the Singapore WSH Conference 2014,
- Good evening. We have come to the end of this year’s Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference. I hope you have found the sessions over the last two days insightful and are able to draw valuable lessons that you can apply at your workplace. To our sponsors and partners, a big thank you for your support.
- Over the last two days we have been enlightened by many distinguished speakers. We heard from Mr Lawrence Waterman, who shared his ideas on how health can be integrated alongside safety to contribute to your project’s success. We also learnt from business leaders such as Mr Cheang Kok Kheong and Mr Thomas Ho who shared that investing in safety and health has helped improve their companies’ productivity and workplace safety and health performance. We heard Mr Kevin McMahon, Ms Diana Chia and Mr Jason Duncan speak about the role of leadership in determining and shaping their organisations’ WSH culture and how safety and health can be integrated at all levels.
- The Conference also touched on Vision Zero and Total Workplace Safety and Health, two important approaches that we hope will bring Singapore’s WSH performance to the next level. In this respect, we are grateful to the International Advisory Panel (or IAP) for Workplace Safety and Health, which convened its fourth meeting over the last two days, for its recommendations on adopting a Vision Zero mindset and implementing Total WSH in Singapore. MOM thanks the IAP members for their insights and contributions, and will work closely with key stakeholders to implement the recommendations.
Adopting a Vision Zero mindset
- Adopting a Vision Zero mindset is an important next step in our WSH journey. Vision Zero is not about focusing solely on meeting a numerical target of zero accidents or zero risks at the workplace, but rather, adopting a conscious mindset that strives for zero harm in the workplace.
- Because work injuries and ill health are not mere accidents – but the result of lapses and risks that are entirely unacceptable and preventable. If we stand firm on this belief, we will be able to better save and protect lives. Whatever our role is, all of us can play a part in steering the WSH climate within our organisation. By committing to Vision Zero, we can set the culture in our organisation and in turn, transform the mindsets of our peers towards achieving WSH excellence. With a conscious effort from all stakeholders, Vision Zero will put us on the right track in preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Arising from the discussions during the IAP meeting, the panel has made some recommendations that Singapore can adopt to achieve Vision Zero. These include identifying leaders who are committed to Vision Zero and act as advocates in championing Vision Zero within and beyond their sphere of influence. This can be done by working through WSH initiatives within the respective companies’ business activities. Considering that adopting Vision Zero mindset takes time, the IAP has also suggested developing performance measures to track the progress of the Vision Zero movement to guide us and our employees in the right direction and motivate us to do better. I believe that these recommendations would encourage greater cross learning of best practices as well as nurture more and better WSH leaders.
Integration of safety and health and its relevance to Singapore
- Throughout the Conference, we have emphasised and reiterated the importance of adopting a holistic approach towards WSH. This approach is embodied in Total WSH, which involves workers and managers collaborating in a continual improvement process to protect and promote the safety, health and wellbeing of all employees. This is critical, especially with the ageing workforce and increasing life expectancies in Singapore, where health issues such as chronic diseases will become more significant and would seriously affect workers and organisations’ productivity. Organisations must therefore put in place holistic intervention programmes to ensure the safety, health and sustainability of the workforce.
Safety and health is core to business sustainability
- Taking a Total WSH approach to protect your employees’ safety and health is not just the right and responsible thing to do, it also makes business sense. In 2012, MOM commissioned a study of 30 companies. Findings from the study revealed that employees of companies that provided more comprehensive WSH programmes were 7.4 times more likely to be satisfied with their current jobs, 4.4 times more likely to be proud to work for their company and 1.7 times more likely to have work-life balance.
- I hope these findings give you a better sense of how Total WSH can lead to engaged employees and thereby positively impact your bottom-line. Frankly, we should not need the verification of this study to persuade us; it is commonsense. And if you are already convinced, like many of us here, it is not difficult to start. The IAP has recommended that the implementation of Total WSH should be contextualised to workplaces so that it is relevant to all industries and employees. To give you an example on how to do so, organisations can encourage employees to stay healthy by offering healthier food choices at staff canteens. Alexandra Hospital takes a step further through offering brown rice at a cheaper price than white rice to encourage employees to choose the healthier option. This would benefit staff, in particular those with diabetes. Employers, such as those in the logistics sector, can also take into consideration workers’ physical attributes in redesigning jobs with repetitive load handling. Otherwise, it may expose staff to an increased risk of back injury. These simple but important interventions can help create a more supportive work environment and safeguard your business against potential workplace accidents and illness, and keep your employees safer and healthier.
- I am confident that Vision Zero and Total WSH can bring us closer towards safer and healthier workplaces. However, the government cannot undertake this journey alone. Every one of us must work together, as we strive towards a better future. Wherever you work and whatever you do at work, I urge you to take steps to embrace Vision Zero and adopt a Total WSH approach today. Our combined and concerted efforts would enable us to change mindsets and improve working conditions.
- Thank you and I hope to see you again for the next Singapore WSH Conference in 2016.