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Speech at Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Resorts World Sentosa

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Members of the WSH Council and Committees,

WSH Awards 2017 recipients,

Industry partners and supporters,

Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good evening. MOS Sam Tan and I are happy to join you here for the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards 2017.Our WSH performance has improved in the last twelve months. In the first half of 2016, 42 lives were lost at work.

  2. This prompted a series of collective and concerted actions by the tripartite partners and industry stakeholders.  We stepped up enforcement, enhanced the penalties and increased our outreach. We saw workplace fatalities decline by 43% to 24 in the second half of 2016.

  3. In the first half of the year, the number of fatalities continued to decline by another 21% to 19.  Even so, we cannot afford to let up on our efforts. 
  4. The recent collapse of a viaduct section under construction near the PIE is a wake-up call for all of us – to never be complacent and take workplace safety and health for granted. Chen Yinchuan from China, came to Singapore just 3 months ago to work as a construction worker. It was his first time working in Singapore. He wanted to earn and save more for his 3-year old son. But instead, he lost his life here. 10 other workers, three from China, 6 from Bangladesh, 1 from India, were injured in the same incident. Six of them are still in hospital. Among them, Gao Li Qin whose condition is still unstable, while two are still in the high dependency ward.
  5. The cause of the incident is still being investigated. But one thing for sure is that this is a man-made incident that could have been avoided, if everyone involved in this project had paid enough attention to the design and construction of the viaduct, and the safety of workers.This is why we need to maintain the “heat” to ensure that everyone will take workplace safety and health seriously.
  6. But what we really want to see is for more companies to not just feel the “heat” but more importantly, to also see the “light” – to recognise that investment in workplace safety and health is good for both workers and their business.We must all commit ourselves to making our workplaces safe for our workers because every life is precious.
  7. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that every worker can go home safely every day, and every foreign worker can return to their home country after every work assignment here. A safe workplace is good for businesses too, because productivity and safety are essentially two sides of the same coin. One cannot do without the other.
  8. Companies receiving the WSH Awards tonight are companies that have seen the “light” of WSH – keeping your employees safe and healthy.  We hope your stories will inspire more and more companies to step up their efforts. So that every worker, in every workplace, can get home safe and sound, every day. 
  9. Tonight, 172 companies and individuals will receive awards, in seven categories.They all have two things in common – Ownership and Partnership. 
  10. First, ownership. The Award recipients are companies that take ownership of safety and health.  They have leaders that walk the talk by setting and upholding workplace safety and health policies, and ensuring that others actively participate in the initiatives too.
  11. Rockwell Automation Asia Pacific Business Center, a 10-time WSH Award recipient, is one such company. Over the last 10 years, Rockwell has maintained zero injuries.  The secret of their success lies in paying attention not only to injuries, but also near misses.Some companies wait for an accident before taking action. They brush aside near misses as there were no injuries. They fail to realise that near misses are just as important. Studying near misses can help companies take pre-emptive action so that accidents will not happen. For Rockwell, every near miss is tracked, reported and investigated seriously as if it was a Lost Workday Injury. Any near miss involving electricity is also shared globally, across all Rockwell facilities, within 48 hours. This helps to prevent similar incidents in Rockwell facilities all over the world.
  12. Second, partnership. These WSH Award recipients extend their workplace safety and health responsibilities beyond their own employees, to partner vendors and contractors, to keep more workers from harm.
  13. Again, Rockwell is a good example.As a bizSAFE Mentor, Rockwell shares best practices with their SME partners and contractors to help improve their WSH management systems. For example, they encourage their regular contractors to attend monthly WSH meetings, conduct joint inspections and participate in monthly WSH campaigns and activities. This helps Rockwell’s contractors and supervisors to understand and comply with their WSH policies and procedures. Well done, Rockwell!
  14. Lendlease Retail Pte Ltd, a two-time WSH Award recipient, is another example. Lendlease Retail is in the business of operating retail malls.  Retail is usually regarded as low risk. But low risk does not mean no risk. Lendlease takes extra steps to keep their employees both safe and healthy.

  15. They have put in place a Health and Wellbeing framework to provide support in four key areas: Healthier Minds, Healthier Bodies, Healthier Places and Healthier Cultures. One of the initiatives they have rolled out include an in-house online portal and mobile app called RENEW, to facilitate sustained healthy lifestyles and complementary lifestyle programmes.The company also looks after visitors to its malls. Lendlease-managed malls are constantly upgraded to improve safety. For example, the Level 5 Medical Centre in Parkway Parade was recently fully carpeted to prevent the patients, who are typically the elderly and children, from slipping. Well done, Lendlease!
  16. Another Award recipient tonight, Keppel Merlimau Cogen, shows us how to be innovative in enhancing safety. The company uses sea water to cool various equipment in their power plants. The cooling water intake channel needs to be drained by installing stop gates in front of the screens. Over time, marine growth, grow along the stop gate guides, making the installation process difficult. To remove the growth, third party vendors either send divers to physically scrape them, or use hydro jets to blast off the growth.However, these methods come with safety risks and operational limitations due to underwater currents.
  17. As an innovative company, Keppel Merlimau Cogen came up with a purpose-built scraper, to clean the stop gate guides more effectively, and more safely too.The morale of the workers and plant management team was boosted, and Keppel also achieved cost savings of about $80,000 per annum.The WSH team could have just kept to old methods of cleaning. But they did not. Instead, their concern for safety became an opportunity. With innovation, they not only save efforts and save costs, but most importantly, save lives.   Well done, Keppel Merlimau Cogen!
  18. Everyone has a role in WSH. We can only truly succeed in keeping all our workplaces safe and healthy for everyone, if we all play our part. Whether you are a business owner, developer, manager or supervisor, no contribution is too small. WSH Supervisor Award recipient, Mr Kannan Damodaran from Sembcorp Marine is one fine example. Kannan genuinely cares to improve the safety of the yard for his co-workers. He never fails to speak out when he encounters any safety breaches, even if that person is his superior. If he sees workers performing unsafe acts, he does not lecture them. Instead, he takes the time to explain to the workers the possible consequences and demonstrates the correct method to perform the task. Well done, Kannan.

  19. To keep doing better, I would like to invite all of you to join us at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at work 2017 coming up in September. Held every 3 years, the Congress is the largest gathering of the global community of professional safety and health experts, regulators and practitioners. The event is expected to attract more than 3,000 participants. You will have the opportunity to network and learn from WSH thought leaders and practitioners from around the world. You will also be able to pick up tips from global experts on how to implement them in your company. The Congress will be held in Southeast Asia for the first time and we are pleased to host the event.  I strongly encourage you and your staff to attend.

  20. In conclusion, as we celebrate your achievements tonight, let us remind ourselves of the three key learning points from our Award recipients: 

    Ownership: Every company and individual has a role to play.

    Partnership: Work with your vendors and contractors, to keep every worker in every workplace safe.

    Innovation: Go beyond the status quo and find ways to work safer and smarter. 
  21. Together, let’s turn Vision Zero into a reality, for all our workers to return home safe and healthy every day.