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Speech at Workplace Safety and Health Awards 2014

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower, Marina Bay Sands Grand Ballroom

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Members of the WSH Council and Committees,
WSH Award 2014 recipients,
Industry partners and supporters,
Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. It is a pleasure for me to join you this evening to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding organisations and individuals who have contributed to excellence in workplace safety and health, or WSH in short.
  2. Tonight, we have 190 award recipients across seven categories1. Collectively, these companies have achieved an injury free period of more than 364 million manhours. This translates to over 147,000 workers going home safely to their families last year. Although we have progressively raised the bar for the WSH Awards each year, I am very happy to say that the number of award recipients has remained consistent. This means our businesses are able to achieve great heights in WSH.

    Building WSH culture
  3. For businesses to sustain WSH performance at a high level, a pervasive WSH culture in their organisation is needed. It is really about the culture. It needs to be ingrained into not just the management of the company but those at the rank-and-file level as well. Everyone’s behaviour needs to be aligned towards the common goal of avoiding harm to people.
  4. To recognise the importance of inculcating a WSH culture, we have introduced the CultureSAFE Perception Survey2 as a prerequisite for application for four award categories3 this year. The CultureSAFE Index generated by the survey allows companies to measure their WSH culture maturity level and identify their strengths and the gaps in their WSH practices.
  5. Based on the survey findings, 64% of the award recipients have attained at least the Proactive Level, or Level 3, of the CultureSAFE Index. If you are already at the Proactive Level, you should strive to progress to the next level, the Progressive level and eventually attain the apex Exemplary level, where the culture of safety and health is part of the company’s values, behaviour and mindsets. Exemplary level companies should also not stop there. As the pace-setters of WSH, you should take the lead and bring other companies onboard the culture building journey to achieve Vision Zero4, and adopt the mindset that all work injuries and ill health are preventable.

    WSH leaders to take the lead to adopt Vision Zero mindset
  6. As leaders of WSH, I urge you to champion Vision Zero within and beyond your workplaces. Be a Vision Zero Champion and inspire others to share our vision and be the role models through your actions.
  7. One company that is doing just that is Siemens Pte Ltd. Siemens’ strong WSH culture is best exemplified in its Zero Harm Culture initiative. As a company, it believes that WSH culture cannot be instilled through company regulations alone. It has to be part of the employee’s values and principles. Siemens’ Zero Harm Culture is founded on three fundamental principles – (i) Zero Incidents, (ii) No Compromise, and (iii) Lead by Example.
  8. What this means is that no lives should be compromised no matter how important the customers are or how tight the deadlines can be. To highlight the importance of this message amongst its employees, Siemens has implemented the “Safety Moments” or “Safety Minute” initiative, where Siemens personnel and/or their contractors have to facilitate a discussion on WSH at the beginning of every meeting.
  9. I would like to take this opportunity to share a close shave that I had on a flight to Yangon, where the plan skidded on the runway. The lesson learnt for me is to pay attention to the pilots when they tell you to buckle up. Incidents happen, and when they happen, we should be prepared.

    Total WSH
  10. Complementing the pursuit of the Vision Zero mindset, the WSH Council has also embarked on promoting Total WSH. This is a holistic approach to managing safety, health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace. It involves the integration of workplace safety, health and wellbeing interventions as workplace safety will affect health and vice versa.
  11. For example, a crane operator may suffer from diabetes that is poorly controlled. If he faints as a result of low blood sugar level during work, the crane he is operating could crash. If his health condition had been managed properly, the accident may have been avoided.
  12. Total WSH requires workers and managers to engage in a continual improvement process. Our ageing workforce will become more prone to work-related ill health, which will impact on the safety of workers. There is a pressing need for employers to start looking into integrating employee’s well-being in its WSH approach.

    Risk Management 2.0
  13. All injuries and ill health can be prevented if an effective risk management is carried out at the workplace. As I’ve shared before, I receive reports of incidents happening virtually everyday. And I will tell you that in most incident reports that I read, whether for an injury or a fatality, every one of them could have been prevented. Since the introduction of mandatory risk assessment in 2006, we have tried to raise awareness and we have seen that companies in Singapore have made progress in improving WSH. However, investigation into the various accidents revealed that more must be done to make the risk management process more effective.
  14. Hence, we have made improvements to our approach to risk management. Termed ‘Risk Management 2.0’ (or RM 2.0), it rests on three key principles. First, risk management should not be a paper exercise. It should focus on what is actually being practised and making sure that risks are identified and necessary measures are implemented on the ground. Second, risks should be reduced at source and upstream control measures should be applied as a first step. If the risks cannot be mitigated at source, other measures must be implemented to ensure the safety and health of the employee. Third, companies should also look at how personal risks can have an effect on WSH and take a holistic approach by integrating personal health with traditional WSH risks.
  15. My Ministry is currently reviewing the existing Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health RM to reflect these principles. Industry consultation on the draft Code of Practice will begin by end July and the Code of Practice will be finalised by year end. The revised Code of Practice will help companies implement effective RM in a practical and holistic manner. A simplified RM Guide will also be developed for workers. Both will be launched early next year, so do keep a lookout for it. I urge those of all of you in the industry to help us ensure that this is not a theoretical exercise. Eventually, you will be subjected to it. So help us make this meaningful.

    Inclusion of new criteria to achieve a pervasive Vision Zero mindset
  16. To support the adoption of Total WSH and RM 2.0, the WSH Council will incorporate aspects of both in future WSH Awards criteria as X-factors.
  17. I am pleased to learn that many of this year’s award recipients are already familiar with and practising aspects of RM 2.0 in their companies. WSH Innovation Award recipient, Resource Piling Pte Ltd is an example of a company that has embraced the RM 2.0 approach by implementing risk control measures and reducing risks at source.
  18. Before the start of any piling works, pile load tests are needed to determine the load capacity of a pile for design validation and optimization. Kentledge5 concrete blocks are commonly used for such tests in Singapore (as shown in the picture on the screen). However, if the kentledge system is not properly designed or constructed, it can pose risks to workers and those in the vicinity.
  19. This was what happened in January 2011 when a structural frame supporting the kentledge structure sunk and caused hundreds of concrete blocks to topple and fall. Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident. But this incident could have been avoided.
  20. There are safer alternatives to the kentledge system. Resource Piling has chosen to adopt an alternative method using a reaction pile system for load tests of up to 7,000 tonnes, replacing the kentledge system.
  21. Through the reaction pile method, the company has significantly reduced major risks associated with the use of kentledge concrete blocks, such as lifting, toppling and work at heights. Lifting operations were reduced by 97% from 3,900 to 100 life cycles. The number of trips needed to transport the concrete blocks were reduced by 94%. Not only were the risks reduced, Resource Piling was able to achieve annualised productivity return of close to 15% as the manhours required for workers to work at height had decreased from 300 to 50. All these have generated savings of $180,000 per operation. This is an excellent illustration of the tangible benefits that can be derived by reducing risks at source. It has a major impact on productivity and it has a significant impact on our efforts to move towards a much more manpower lean approach to operations.

  22. Let me conclude by once again extending my congratulations to all our Award recipients. Your achievement tonight is another important step towards our vision as a country with top-class WSH practices. We must all play an active role in helping Singapore attain that. It is not just about recognition for being a country with top-class practices. It’s really about looking after our people. As WSH leaders, you are in the driver’s seat to propel Singapore to greater heights in WSH performance. As we move towards Vision Zero, we must double our efforts in building WSH culture, adopting Total WSH and practising RM 2.0.
  23. As we toast and celebrate successes tonight, I hope we will also renew our support for each other – business partners, contractors, colleagues and friends – in achieving the best WSH outcomes that we possibly can. As one WSH community, I am confident that we can attain a pervasive Vision Zero mindset in Singapore and bring our workers home safely to their families each and every day. Thank you.

1 For more information on WSH Awards 2014, refer to Annex A.
2 For more information on CultureSAFE Perception Survey, refer to Annex B.
3 WSH Awards categories that require companies to complete the CultureSAFE Perception Survey are – WSH Performance Awards, Safety and Health Award Recognition for Projects (SHARP), WSH Risk Management Awards, and WSH Developer Awards.
4 For more details on Vision Zero, please refer to Annex C.
5 Kentledge – Material used to add temporary loading to a structure (e.g. to the top of caissons) to assist in sinking or as dead weight to a loading set.