Speech at Opening of the 1st ASEAN-OSHNET Conference
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (Health and Manpower), Suntec Convention Centre
Mr Rodolfo Serevino,
Head of ASEAN Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies,
Mr Seiji Machida,
Senior Advisor on Occupational Safety and Health, International Labour Organisation,
Heads of Government Authorities in Occupational Safety and Health,
Ladies and gentlemen,
- It is my pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural ASEAN-OSHNET1 Conference in Singapore.
- ASEAN's economy has grown over the past few years and remains an attractive business location with investment opportunities for companies. By 2015, we will have an integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), with freer flow of capital, goods and services. ASEAN will be a region ripe with potential and primed for further economic growth.
- Fundamental to economic progress is having good Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards and practices. Significant improvements in this area have been made across the region. For example, every ASEAN Member State has put in place their National OSH framework. Singapore and Malaysia have ratified the ILO's Convention 187, on Promotional Frameworks for OSH, while other member states such as Vietnam and Indonesia are making good progress and have obtained approval from their governments to ratify it. This signifies our continued commitment towards good OSH standards.
OSH requires involvement from all stakeholders
- At the government level, we must work towards providing a stable business environment in ASEAN supported by strong OSH standards. This will give investors greater confidence to invest in the region. At the company level, not only does this make business sense, more importantly, providing employees with a safe and healthy working environment is the right thing to do.
- Hence, it is critical for all stakeholders to understand the OSH challenges ASEAN as a community faces, and see them not as hurdles to overcome but as opportunities to improve safety standards and workers’ well-being. This is where ASEAN-OSHNET plays an important role.
Role of ASEAN-OSHNET
- ASEAN-OSHNET was officially formed in 2000 as a network to foster a safe and healthy working environment, so as to bring about a productive competitive workforce in ASEAN.
- In 2006, OSH was added as a priority area in the ASEAN Labour Minister's work programme. This gave ASEAN-OSHNET a larger role to play. ASEAN-OSHNET developed Plans of Action to build up national OSH frameworks, and the focus then shifted to raising the profile of OSH in the region and putting in place tools for benchmarking Member States’ OSH practices against global best practices. Over the years, ASEAN-OSHNET has steadily influenced key stakeholders and contributed to the improvement of OSH standards within this region. Its impact can be attributed to three factors.
a) Strong Partnership amongst ASEAN Member States
- First, the members of ASEAN-OSHNET have forged good working relationships with one another, founded on trust and mutual respect. Without this strong partnership, the initiatives under the Plan of Action such as the ASEAN-OSHNET Code of Integrity for OSH Inspections, which assists OSH inspectors to understand the minimum conduct expected when conducting inspections, would not have been possible.
b) Sharing of Good Practices and Experience to improve OSH
- Second, the sharing of information, national experiences and best practices within the ASEAN-OSHNET has accelerated OSH developments and raised OSH standards in the region. This has been accomplished through various platforms such as annual coordinating board meetings, policy dialogues, OSH publications and an ASEAN-OSHNET webpage. Member states and stakeholders have been able to tap on this pool of knowledge to improve OSH standards and practices.
c) Common Objective of Creating Safe and Healthy Workplaces
- Most importantly, all of the ASEAN Member States are united by a common desire to ensure that all workers are kept safe and healthy at their workplaces.
Inaugural ASEAN-OSHNET Conference
- Today's ASEAN-OSHNET conference is one of the key initiatives under the ASEAN-OSHNET Plan of Action for 2011 to 2015, to raise the profile of OSH within the region. This conference will be held annually, and brings together government officials, international OSH experts and business leaders to share insights about developments and best practices that are affecting today’s OSH landscape. The conference aims to be the regional platform for stakeholders to come together, network and exchange knowledge and experiences to improve OSH, wherever they are based in the region and regardless of their role. I encourage you to participate actively and tap on the experience of the distinguished speakers that we have lined up for you.
- Another initiative under the ASEAN-OSHNET Plan of Action is the ASEAN-OSHNET Awards. To recognise companies based in ASEAN who have excellent OSH management systems and performance, ASEAN-OSHNET is introducing two awards - the ASEAN-OSHNET Excellence Award and ASEAN-OSHNET Best Practices Award. The awards will be the first of its kind for OSH in ASEAN, and will be open to companies from next year. Award-winners will share their best practices at future ASEAN-OSHNET Conferences. We encourage companies to participate in the awards, and hope that they will spur widespread and sustained improvement in OSH standards.
Singapore taking over as ASEAN-OSHNET Secretariat
- This year, Singapore is honoured to take over the ASEAN-OSHNET Secretariat role from the Philippines. We will have large shoes to fill. I would like to thank the Philippines for playing a vital role in the smooth running of the Secretariat over the past three years, which has allowed ASEAN-OSHNET to grow from strength to strength.
- We will build on this foundation to strengthen collaboration among AMS on OSH over the next 3 years with the support from AMS.
Celebrating 15 years of ASEAN-OSHNET
- ASEAN-OSHNET will be celebrating its 15th anniversary next year. To commemorate this milestone, ASEAN-OSHNET will be releasing a publication next year to capture its achievements over the last 15 years. I would like to thank all who have contributed to the success of ASEAN-OSHNET, and I am confident that we will continue to work closely together to raise OSH standards in the region for many years to come.
- I wish everyone a most fruitful conference, and an enjoyable stay in Singapore.
- Thank you.
Occupational Safety and Health Network.