Skip to main content

Speech at bizSAFE Convention 2016

Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Manpower, Max Atria, Singapore Expo

Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good morning. This is the first time I’m attending the Convention and I’m happy to see the big turnout today. The bizSAFE programme has grown over the years. From its humble beginning in 2007 with 1,900 companies, we now have over 23,600 bizSAFE-certified companies today. This is a clear demonstration that more employers are recognising the importance of having good workplace safety and health (or WSH) practices.

    Theme of bizSAFE Convention 2016 – Prevent, Protect and Build Capabilities
  2. The theme this year is “bizSAFE – Prevent, Protect and Build Capabilities”. Most of us would agree that the best way to reduce injuries is to prevent accidents from happening. In order to do so, we must first believe that all injuries and ill health at work are preventable and zero harm is possible. This is the basis for companies to come onboard the bizSAFE journey, to set the direction in managing risks and preventing accidents.
  3. But bizSAFE is not about completing a paper exercise on risk management. Employers must put the plan into practice and constantly review their WSH practices and continuously implement measures to eliminate or reduce risks to a minimum, to protect employees.
  4. Above all, employers need to ensure that employees are trained and competent to perform their jobs. As your company progresses along the bizSAFE programme, you will also build up WSH capabilities. Management and employees must continually improve in managing risks to prevent accidents and protect lives at work.

    Benefits of good WSH management
  5. For those new to WSH, you may ask – “Why is risk management important and how does having good WSH practices help my company?”
  6. Firstly, good WSH management saves and protects lives. As employers, you are responsible for your employees’ lives at work. It is both a legal and moral obligation that you provide a safe and healthy work environment for your employees.
  7. Secondly, good WSH management brings several business benefits. Fewer accidents and injuries at work mean fewer work stoppages, translating to higher productivity, timely delivery of projects and reduced operating costs. This helps to build a good reputation for your company. Your workers will feel valued and happy knowing that they are well taken care of and in turn, be better motivated to give their best for the company.
  8. Based on my experience engaging with SMEs, I found that often, SMEs are reluctant to make changes to their day-to-day operations. Even when they know it is important, the sense of urgency is lacking. They find it overwhelming to change existing methods and put new systems in place. However, once they overcome these barriers, they realise that the rewards from improving work processes are well worth the effort. I believe this applies to WSH as well.

    Implementation of risk management
  9. The revised Approved Code of Practice on Risk Management was launched a year ago to help companies better understand risk management and how to go about doing it. The three key principles of risk management outlined are: It must be pragmatic, reduce risks at source and take individual risk factors into account. The 39 bizSAFE Award 2016 recipients here today are examples of companies and individuals who have applied these principles in their WSH efforts.
  10. Take for example, bizSAFE Enterprise Exemplary Award recipient, Techgems Engineering and Construction Pte. Ltd. Previously when its workers were performing conventional manual and mechanical excavation, there was a risk of damaging features buried underground such as cables. Workers were also at risk of potential hazards such as presence of toxic gases underground. With the understanding of the risks, the company invested in suction excavators which were more efficient and safer. The suction excavators are powerful enough to pull up debris and toxic gases but gentle enough to prevent damage to underground features. This has significantly reduced the risks of worker exposure to toxic gases while safeguarding public safety with more contained worksite areas. With suction excavators, the work process onsite is up to 16 times faster, thus significantly reducing overall project costs.
  11. Another example is bizSAFE Champion Award recipient Suherwan Jasmani. Every week, he and his WSH team from Wee Guan Construction Pte Ltd will visit various sites randomly to conduct on-the-job refresher training. They do so to ensure that site personnel are well trained and adhere to WSH legal requirements. Safety checks on different WSH focus areas such as labelling of hazardous chemicals, housekeeping and clearing potential mosquito breeding areas are also conducted daily. These initiatives help to ensure that safe work practices are in use and existing risk control measures are still effective. These examples show that implementing risk management is in fact, doable and worthwhile.

    Training and support for implementing good practices
  12. To carry out risk management effectively, employers and employees must be equipped with the relevant competencies. In this aspect, the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers has been running workshops based on the enhanced risk management Code of Practice since May last year. I strongly urge you and your employees to sign up for the next available run so you can better understand, control and deal with WSH risks.
  13. The WSH Council have also introduced many measures specially tailored to help SMEs implement risk management.
    • There is the START guide – a simple step-by-step guide for SMEs to start on WSH which is available on Council’s website.
    • You can also subscribe to the Council’s free electronic WSH Bulletin to be updated on WSH case studies and learn recommended safety measures to help you avoid similar incidents from happening. The website also contains many practical and innovative solutions compiled from industry best practices.
    • And you can now tap on SPRING’s Capability Development Grant to defray up to 70% of the cost of attaining bizSAFE Level 1 through bizSAFE STAR.
  14. The importance of risk management cannot be overemphasised. In the first half of 2015, there had been 29 workplace fatal injuries. However, last month alone, nine lives were lost in various work accidents. Injuries at work are simply not acceptable. The nine workers are not mere numbers; they are someone’s child, spouse, parent and co-worker. The loss of lives could have been prevented if proper risk management and adequate control measures had been put in place. Employers and employees have to work together. It is the obligation of employers to ensure the safety of their employees. We must not be complacent about safety and health. I urge every one of us to step up efforts to look out for one another and take every reasonable precaution to prevent injuries and accidents.

  15. In closing, I hope that you will take the next step in changing the way you think and do about WSH. The onus is on every one of us to prevent injury and ill health. Through our commitment to manage risks at work, we can make a difference to our lives and those of our colleagues. I wish you a fruitful session and a safer and healthier year at work this year. Together, we can prevent all injuries and ill health at work. Thank you.