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Speech at Launch of National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower and Minister for Social and Family Development, SCAPE

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower,

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower,

Mr Lee Tzu Yang,
Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Ms Diana Chia,
President, National Trade Union Congress (or NTUC),

Dr Robert Yap,
President, Singapore National Employers’ Federation (or SNEF),

Industry partners,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Welcome to all participants.
  2. It is important for us to remind ourselves why this effort is important. It is not just statistics that matter. It is important for us to never forget that behind every statistic that we show, there are lives involved. When we want to minimise fatalities, it’s important. And it’s come down. But it’s not good enough. We need to have as few fatalities and injuries as possible, and that is what Vision Zero is all about – believing that zero fatalities is possible. We have to remember that it is not just a life; it is a family member, husband, father, son, daughter, wife who won’t be coming back. And the effects are permanent.
  3. Similar with injuries, we need to ensure that we minimise them. Near misses are something we are concerned with as well. Every near miss is a potential fatality; every near miss is a potential accident.
  4. It is important to remind ourselves that one third of our day is spent at work. This behoves us to pay attention to workplace safety and health. Many of us will live longer – we have a longer life expectancy. And we need to live well. It is fine when you are young as your body compensates, but wear and tear will eventually affect us at a later stage.
  5. The effort we are trying to put into the safety and health aspects are important. If we are to genuinely look after our people, we should place emphasis on this at work.

    Workers’ changing expectations, WSH as a value proposition for employers
  6. The workforce expectations are changing. Within our workforce, we have people of varying generations – from people who are slowly exiting the workforce through retirement, to Gen X, Gen Y and the increasing number of Gen Z who are entering the workforce.
  7. Expectations are high. One of the things you will find from many employees, not just the young ones, is that they are looking at employers who will provide them with a positive working environment. Workplace safety and health is one particular area which we feel is important for them. Employees want to work in an environment where people genuinely care for them. How do we tell them that we value their welfare, work-life balance and workplace harmony, which is also related to workplace safety and health? All this will help in deepening their connection with the company. It will also strengthen the engagement process and create a positive value preposition for the company. It is also one way to attract and retain talent.

    Safe and healthy workers important for a productive workforce
  8. Earlier this year, I mentioned the tight labour market in Singapore. This is a message that we will continue to highlight. Companies would sometimes point to the tighter labour market as one reason why incidents might be increasing and safety might be compromised. That is no excuse. In a tight labour market, we have responsibility to manage how we work. Apart from timelines and KPIs, there must be workplace safety and health. We need to figure out how best to work within the constraints that we have and continue to focus on the things that are important.

    Successful companies recognise the value of WSH
  9. Good companies have good workplace safety and health standards. Accidents may happen. Hence, setting the conditions may lower the probability of incidents. Good companies are those that place emphasis on this because they can minimise incidents. Most of you will know that when incidents happen, it affects operations. So, it is worth us taking time and effort to implement all these measures.
  10. Keppel is a good example. They believe strongly in WSH. Their commitment is enshrined in their mission statement. It reads, “Guided by our operating principles and core values, we will execute our businesses in Offshore & Marine, Property, Infrastructure and Investments profitably, safely and responsibly.”
  11. Safety is a core value that is integral to the interest of Keppel’s stakeholders. Annual Safety Conventions are organised to recognise safety champions among its subsidiaries. Keppel Shipyard has also set up a Well-Being and Support Centre, which provides holistic health and medical services as well as counseling for workers.
  12. For Keppel, WSH is core to the organization and embedded in their DNA. Their WSH culture is synonymous to a culture of care. Ask Keppel for their KPI for WSH and they will say it is “Beyond Zero”. This is important because the marine industry is one of those where in the past, there were many incidents. Keppel is one example of how the industry has transformed itself significantly. Keppel is not just about good profits but also about genuinely looking after its employees.
  13. The same goes for Sembcorp Marine. WSH considerations were forefront in their minds when they designed the new Integrated Yard @ Tuas. For example, to better manage vehicular traffic safety within the yard, heavy vehicles were segregated from passenger vehicles. In addition, wider roads with clear demarcations for walkways and bicycle lanes were created. At quay side, barricades were erected to prevent people from accidentally falling into the sea.
  14. Both Sembcorp Marine and Keppel are amongst the 26 Marine Industries leaders which have taken a Pledge for Zero in 2009 to pledge their commitment towards zero injuries. Over the years, CEOs of these companies come together at the annual Marine CEO Roundtable to discuss WSH issues.
  15. But pledging for Zero should not stop at just the company level. We should strive to extend that same WSH culture and commitment to the subcontractors. Now that we have established it at the parent company level, let us extend the efforts to all the subsidiaries. That’s what the Marine CEO Roundtable decided to do two years ago. They exerted their influence to their business partners to come on board the Pledge for Zero movement. Today, 71 of their business partners have joined them in this Pledge, growing the Marine Pledge for Zero group from the initial 26 to 97 today. I would like to see these numbers increase and I would like to see this trend extend beyond this industry to all industries.

    Launch of Vision Zero Movement
  16. I hope that we can have more of such ground-up movements because a lot of these were started by the industries themselves. That’s the best way to go, not mandated from above, not mandated by the Workplace Safety and Health Council, and not mandated by the Government. For it to be genuinely successful, it needs to be believed and executed from the bottom up.
  17. I too have a vision of a safe and healthy workplace, and that vision is Vision Zero. Since we started introducing the concept of Vision Zero a few years back, many have asked, is Vision Zero a target? Well, I think we would all like to have zero fatalities and zero injuries as an ideal. But focusing on the zero in Vision Zero as a number would be too limiting. What’s important is to focus on the process of trying to get there and then endeavoring as best as we can to bring it to that number.
  18. We have to have the mindset that everyone believes in this, and we need to have Vision Zero embedded, like in some of these organizations, as part of the DNA and the organization’s culture. We must believe that we should prevent all injuries and be healthy at work. Not just we should, but we can and I think we must.
  19. If we all have this mindset, we will all begin to proactively take measures to prevent every injury from happening at our workplace. And you will find that slowly, the fatality and injury numbers will slowly sort itself out. Focus on doing the right things and good results will follow.
  20. Hence this year, the message is, I can prevent all injuries and be healthy at work. So the onus of prevention and being healthy is on every one of us. And here is where I would like to emphasise that it’s not just the companies, but also individuals who have this responsibility. So all of us, if we reflect on what we do at the workplace, would realise that there are a lot of simple things that we can do. And we owe it to our families and ourselves to look after ourselves as well. So whether you are the CEO, the middle manager or the worker, we have the capacity and the power to make a difference.
  21. We’ve lined up a series of activities for this year’s campaign.
  22. First, we have practiced what we preached, for example, even when we set up this place. So you look at this tent. This is one area where there are challenges. Many of our contractors on the ground at events are complaining that there’s not enough manpower to set up the tent. Well, this is how bringing in our engineering expertise can help.
  23. With a traditional tent, workers have to climb to the top of the tent structure during installation. And I repeatedly get photographs and telephone calls from the public asking, “How come this contractor, his worker is climbing up the ladder and he’s not wearing all the safety harnesses?”
  24. It happens. Sometimes it’s convenience, sometimes it’s habit. Well, one way to prevent it is to look at the very design of the tent itself. An engineered tent allows the canvas to be slotted in without the need for the workers to work on top of the tent structure. So you prevent the accidents from happening in the first place by the way you design it. It may cost more, but perhaps with time and scale, the costs can be managed. In any case, because of the shortage of manpower on this front, I think it makes a lot of sense to embark on this effort. It is about eliminating Work at Heights by nearly 70%, and that is a very significant number. And it also improves productivity by saving at least 15% in man hours.
  25. Second, we have a series of booths to share prevention tips where risks cannot be eliminated. Risk is inherent in everything that we do. But it’s about how we minimise that risk. So for example, we have booths on ergonomics, including one with an e-learning module by MOM. Many of us spend many hours of the day sitting at our desks. In 2014, we saw 302 cases of back injuries due to ergonomic risks at work, and there may be more that have not been reported. So it’s important that we have the best arrangements to reduce back injuries at work. As I’ve mentioned, it will all come back to haunt us and affect us when we’re older. So when you retire, you want to enjoy your retirement years, play with your grandchildren. But when your back has got a problem, it will be very difficult for you.
  26. And there are also booths that will provide you with useful tips on how to prevent injuries and ill health at work. For example, you can visit the new interactive exhibits on occupational diseases and noise induced deafness, try out ergonomic furniture and various e-learning programmes on Workplace Safety and Health.
  27. It’s important for us to reach out to the young and start developing that mindset from an early age. If our children can develop that mindset, I think they can begin to prevent injuries and ill health even before they start work.
  28. We have a “Safety Starts with Me” Competition 2015 showcase where primary and secondary school students have submitted their ideas on how to be safe and healthy at work through mediums such as posters, story writing, photography and so on. We’re also launching “Safety First with Ken and Friends”, which is an online e-learning module for upper primary and lower secondary schools. Here students can interact with Ken and his friends on topics such as safety at home, safety at play, traffic safety and slips, trips and falls.
  29. Finally, to drive greater awareness of Vision Zero, we have a song and the Vision Zero songwriting competition which will be launched today. The winner of this competition will be here with us next year, on the same stage, to showcase his or her talent. So share your thoughts about Vision Zero with us through a song.
  30. So there are many different activities. But more importantly, how do we create awareness and develop the right mindset?

  31. So Vision Zero does not start with the number as a target. It starts with a mindset and a belief. It starts with you and me as a caring employer and a family member, doing what we can to prevent injuries and keep healthy. I think we owe it to all of us, and we owe it to all our families to do this. All of us must find our own way of developing that mindset. It is about all of us not letting go of our opportunities to prevent any accidents. Because you never know – a simple accident, a simple slip, can result in serious consequences.
  32. In our workplaces we know that there are things that we can do, even now, without this initiative, without this campaign, without these incentives. There are things that we can do today to prevent incidents from happening. And when we all come together to try and make sure that there are safer and healthier workplaces for all, you will begin naturally to see some of these numbers fall. So let us make that pledge that I can and I must prevent all injuries and be healthy at work.
  33. Thank you very much.