Speech at Launch of the Biosafety Passport
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory
Mr Peter Chia, Chief Operating Officer, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory,
Dr Chua Teck Mean, President, Asia-Pacific Biosafety Association,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Good morning. I am pleased to join you at today’s launch of the comprehensive Biosafety Training Structure and the first Biosafety Passport in Singapore.
- In recent years, biosafety issues have been drawing much attention with endemic threats such as H5N1 and Ebola resulting in fatalities across the globe. The increasingly high traffic across borders and high density populations has made it more challenging to deal with these threats. While Singapore has thus far been spared, we must not take this for granted, we must remain vigilant. We can start by ensuring that persons working in biological or biomedical labs are well-trained in handling biological agents safely. Many of the biological agents are hazardous. Some are infectious and pose a risk to those who handle them. Besides providing a safe work environment, the best way to protect persons at workplace is to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they will be able to identify the hazards associated with their work, assess the risks involved and take the necessary measures to manage the risks.
- The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), with the help of various agencies and stakeholders, has developed a comprehensive Biosafety Training Structure. This will map the skills gaps and progression pathways for the biomedical and life sciences industry.
- The Biosafety Training Structure offers three levels of qualifications. The first level is the Biosafety Induction Programme (BIP), which is pegged at the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications System (WSQ) Advanced Certificate level. BIP is an orientation course for users who will come into contact with biologicals or biologically derived agents.
- The second level is the Biosafety Professional Programme (BPP), which is pegged at the WSQ Specialist Diploma level. It is for experienced employees who wish to become biosafety coordinators or biosafety officers. BPP maps out the current skills and knowledge requirement of biosafety coordinators under the Biological Agents and Toxins Act (BATA), such as dealing with safety issues at the operation and management level for high containment facilities.
- The last level is the Professional Certification for Continued Education. This comprises professional workshops, conferences, and master classes conducted by professional bodies. These workshops will cover the emerging trends and developments of the industry to keep our biosafety professionals updated. The first workshop for this level will be held today. Dr Kazunobu Kojima from the World Health Organisation will be sharing with us on CWA 15793 – Laboratory Biorisk Management Document toward an ISO deliverable. I am sure many of you are looking forward to listening to Dr Kojima.
- Earlier I had introduced the first level of the Biosafety Training Structure – BIP. As part of BIP, trainees will go through the core WSQ module “Follow Good Biosafety Practices in the Workplace”. Those certified competent will receive the Biosafety Passport.
- The Biosafety Passport will be recognised by employers in the sector. It provides assurance to employers that their employees are trained to handle biologicals or biologically derived agents safely. This helps to reduce time spent on re-training employees in biosafety practices as they move across organisations.
- Currently, there are more than 7,100 researchers carrying out biomedical and life sciences R&D in Singapore. In addition, the industry hires close to 1,700 employees at six Biologics Manufacturing facilities. We estimate close to 9,000 individuals will benefit from the recognition of the Biosafety Passport. Today, most employees would have to undergo around four hours of Biosafety retraining when moving across organisations. With the Biosafety Passport, this retraining is no longer necessary, which translates to potential time savings of about to 36,000 hours.
- Apart from training those already in the industry, we also want to ensure that potential employees are well-trained before they enter the workforce. Institutes of Higher Learning such as the Singapore Institute of Technology will be embedding the Biosafety Passport as part of their curriculum. We expect up to 600 students to benefit from the initiative each year. We are also working with the polytechnics to deliver the training to the working adults.
- While I’ve mentioned how the initiatives launched today would benefit the industry in terms of productivity and skills upgrading, it is not just that. More importantly, it is about the lives of each and every one of those 9,000 people working in the labs today. The training will give workers the know-how to protect their health. This is not something that we can put a dollar value to. As the saying goes, the most valuable asset any organisation has is its people. Employees who are well-trained in biosafety will be able to protect themselves and fellow colleagues against biohazards, as well as to prevent incidents from occurring in the workplace.
- I am indeed pleased that many of you here have shown your support for the initiatives launched today. While the Government will continue to do as much as we can, the impact will be limited without support from the industry. I am confident that with your support, we will be able to further improve the manpower capabilities of the biomedical and life sciences industry, and allow each and every worker to return home healthy and safe.
- Thank you.