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Speech at WSH Tech Symposium 2017

Mr Sam Tan, Minister Of State, Ministry Of Manpower, Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre

Distinguished guests,
Industry partners,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon,

I am happy to join you today at the inaugural WSH Tech Symposium 2017. This is a platform for the industry to share and gain new insights into how we can use technology to improve Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) outcomes. It is encouraging that this event has been fully subscribed with more than 400 participants in the audience today. It shows how serious you take safety and health matters at your workplaces, and are keen to do better.

  1. Let me start with a quick sharing of our WSH performance. Based on preliminary findings, last year, 66 workers lost their lives in workplace accidents, similar to that in 2015. For the past 2 years, the fatality rate per 100,000 employed persons stagnated at 1.9. Our target is to reduce the fatality rate to below 1.8 per 100,000 employed persons by 2018. We are still not there. Every death is one too many. A death at work means the loss of a loved one at home. For some families, it could mean a loss of their sole breadwinners. We owe it to our workers to keep them safe and healthy so that they go to work and return home safely to their families every single day.

    Promoting WSH Culture
  2. We need to address this worrying WSH situation together. The Ministry of Manpower and WSH Council have been working closely with various stakeholders to improve WSH and strengthen the prevention culture. Last year, I personally hosted the monthly CEO dialogue series to engage the leaders of various industry groups. We discuss safety and health issues in their companies and industries and on how to cultivate a Vision Zero mindset – one where all workplace injuries and ill-health are preventable.
  3. We also reached out to workers directly through the WSH Awareness Booster campaign, which was also launched last year. The campaign highlighted the ‘Look. Think. Do.’ approach through pictograms to remind workers to be more vigilant of the work surroundings and potential risks, and take necessary steps to eliminate them before starting any work.
  4. We must continue to do more to promote and further entrench a strong WSH culture in all our workplaces.

    Importance of WSH training
  5. Training is also important in ensuring that workers are aware of risks at work and know how to protect themselves. We have introduced more hands-on components in the training curriculum of workers, supervisor and managers. We have also put in measures to ensure the quality of training. 
  6. By 1 July 2017, Accredited Training Providers (ATPs) are required to attain the ISO standards and by 2019, all WSH courses will be qualified under the Workforce Skill Qualification (WSQ) framework. Quality WSH training for workers also means the need to include innovative curriculum and methods to equip workers with up-to-date knowledge and relevant competencies to enhance safety at the workplace.
  7. I had the opportunity to experience this myself in Australia. I recently led a tripartite work group there and visited the Building Leadership Simulation Centre in Melbourne, set up by the Masters Builders Association of Victoria. A multi-million dollar state-of-art facility, the Centre uses visual simulation to create an immersive virtual worksite to target decision-making, problem-solving and leadership skills. Supervisors and workers learnt to deal with the challenges of a real work site in a risk-free environment. There, I was transported to a virtual construction site as the site manager. Confronted by a variety of tasks, interactions and scenarios, I came to appreciate the challenges faced by a site manager in managing the various unexpected situations that could crop up in their daily work. Indeed, augmented reality or virtual reality technologies provide a realistic and immersive learning experience where users can interact and learn more effectively.
  8. Over and above WSH promotion and training, we will also continue with our enforcement actions and take errant companies to task if they fail to observe even the basic WSH precautions and measures.

    Harnessing Technology to improve WSH Outcomes
  9. Today when we look around us, it is clear that technological advances have a profound impact on revolutionising businesses and the way we work. Automation technologies have allowed businesses to do more with less, supporting our transformation into a more productive and manpower-lean economy. So how can we harness technology to nurture a stronger culture of prevention and improve safety and health in the workplace?

    Technology to monitor and evaluate WSH
    Upgrade of SNAP@MOM
  10. Besides the use of technology in WSH training which I have elaborated earlier, let me highlight two other areas. First, is the use of technology in monitoring and evaluation. Many of you would be familiar with the SNAP@MOM application. Developed in 2012, it served as a platform to tap into the power of crowdsourcing. I hope many of you have downloaded the mobile app into your handphones and have been actively using it. Anyone with a smart phone can now easily report unsafe work conditions or practices by submitting a photo directly to MOM. Over the years, we have received more than 5,000 reports and feedback. These reports accounted for about 40% of all reports to MOM on WSH issues.
  11. Having developed the enabling technology platform, we are now ready to extend the platform for companies to integrate it into their internal unsafe reporting system. In this upgraded Version 2 of SNAP@MOM, companies can customise the application to receive employees’ reports on unsafe work practices, accidents and near-misses in their workplaces. Rest assured these reports would not be forwarded to MOM. Instead, it would be channelled to designated responsible parties in the workplaces to follow up. Version 2 will also have a Performance Statistical Dashboard that can be customised to the company’s unique specifications. It will allow them to track, review and analyse their safety and health statistics so that effective preventive measures can be implemented to improve their safety performance.
  12. This Version 2 of SNAP@MOM is essentially an “out of the box” tool that companies can easily adopt to build up a WSH culture where reporting of unsafe acts or near misses are not frown upon for fear of punishment, but celebrated so that the work environment can be made safer and healthier for everyone. Version 2 will be released sometime in the middle of the year. I encourage companies looking to inculcate greater WSH ownership in your work places to register your interest with my MOM team to be the pioneer batch of users!

    WSH Management Portal - iSAFE
  13. There are many other WSH reporting and management systems in the market. Teambuild, for example, has developed their own WSH management portal, known as iSAFE. The online portal is integrated with desktop and various mobile devices to facilitate entry and processing of internal inspection and investigation findings. It also generates analysis reports on site performance that help the company in monitoring and tracking the safety performance of individual worksites. I am glad to hear that Teambuild is also willing to share their application freely with companies who are interested to improve their WSH performance. We will hear more about this in their sharing later.

    Data loggers
  14. Data loggers are another good example of how monitoring technology can be used to improve WSH outcomes. Since the mandatory installation of data loggers in mobile cranes was announced in 2015, close to 1,000 mobile cranes have been installed with these data loggers. This has helped companies such as Bok Seng Group to review the information collected on a regular basis to improve crane safety and enhance overall management of lifting operations on site. Crane supervisors would download the information from the data logger every month. They would review the parameters collected to spot incidents where overloading of the crane or unathourised by-pass of the crane’s safety devices were carried out. This would then serve as a guide to plan future lifting operations and to identify crane operators who may need to be coached or re-trained to ensure that they remain vigilant and safety conscious during their operation.
  15. The deadline to retrofit existing mobile cranes with data loggers is only 20 months away. Don’t delay any further. Tap into the co-funding provided by the WSH Council and have your mobile cranes fitted with data loggers to realise the benefits of safer crane operations.

    Technology to eliminate workplace safety risks

  16. The second area where technology can be applied is in developing new work processes and tools to eliminate the risks created by work. A good example of this is PictoBot, a robot developed by JTC Corporation and Nanyang Technological University, with local start-up Aitech Robotics and Automation. Instead of having two painters using a scissor lift working at 10 metres above ground to paint the high ceilings of industrial buildings, the PictoBot can now do it with just one human supervisor on the ground. Using an optical camera and laser scanner, it also does the job 25 per cent faster than two humans and can even operate in the dark!
  17. Another example is the use of collision avoidance system to prevent work-related traffic accidents within worksites. Using audio and visual alerts, such system can provide heavy vehicle drivers with more time to react and prevent a collision. Later during the seminar, Volvo will be sharing with us their active safety system which makes their trucks “more human”. With a 360 degree scan of its surroundings, the system will suggest actions to avoid traffic accidents. Besides giving drivers better control over their surroundings, such technological solutions help to reduce the risk of accidents with other road users.


  18. Today, you stand to gain new insights from our 7 speakers and experience the latest cutting-edge technologies applicable across various sectors at the exhibition booths outside this seminar room. I hope you will bring back and apply some of these innovations at your workplaces for better WSH management.
  19. Let us embrace and harness technology to push new frontiers to bring about safer, healthier and productive workplaces for our workers, in a manpower-lean workforce. I hope this Symposium can be held regularly for more companies to showcase their WSH improvement through technology. With that, 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.
  20. Thank you.