Speech at Safe Hands Campaign Launch
Minister of State Sam Tan, SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1
Mr Tan Chuan Lye, Chairman for Food Solutions of SATS Ltd, and staff of SATS,
Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Chairman of WSH Council,
Mr John Ng, Vice President, Singapore National Employers Federation,
Mr Abdullah Shafiie Sidik, President, SATS Workers’ Union
Ladies and Gentlemen
- I am very happy to join all of you this morning at the SATS Safe Hands CEO Walkabout. A short while later, we will be visiting SATS Catering pre-preparation kitchen with SATS senior management to observe the work environment and control measures put in place to prevent hand injuries in the kitchen. SATS Catering has automated its kitchen processes to improve production efficiency and safety standards. While this is commendable, we cannot take it for granted that serious injuries will not happen. While it is good to have automation and mechanisation to help make work more productive and efficient, as workers, we should not have a false sense of security that the operations itself will automatically be safe. From workplace incident reports, we know that serious injuries leading to amputations, and sometimes fatalities, still occur if employers are not mindful of the safety risks workers are exposed to. Hence, caution and vigilance are still important priorities even if workplaces are highly automated and mechanised.
Amputations remain a concern
- Among various types of workplace injuries, hand injuries is a cause of concern. Since 2012, there has been a steady volume of amputation injuries, averaging around 10-12 cases a month. In 2017, there were 125 amputation cases of which 94% (117) were hand related cases. Although this was fewer than the 143 cases in 2016, we should aim to reduce amputations even further. To us, every case of amputation is one too many. From handling such amputation cases, we know that the injuries affect the livelihoods of workers whose jobs rely on operating machinery or handling materials. If their hands or fingers are affected or amputated, it would affect the way that they handle their work, and it may also affect their career and employment opportunities. Therefore, we have to take this seriously.
- From our investigation, we discovered that more than half (55%) of amputation injuries were due to inadequate safety provisions at the workplace, such as the lack of proper machine guarding and risk management. Other causes include poor machine maintenance, unauthorized operation of machinery and inadequate training for workers who operate the machines.
Walking the Talk
- To address these causes, management must commit to a Vision Zero mind set of preventing all accidents. This is why conducting a senior management walkabout is important. By walking the ground, management can better appreciate the WSH challenges faced by operation staff.
- By walking the ground regularly, employers are able to recognise, identify, manage and control any amputation hazards caused by the mechanical components of machines. They can also see with their own eyes the safety risks that workers are exposed to when these machines are in operation and observe any unsafe activities that workers perform when machines are in action.
These safety hazards can be addressed through improved work practices, employee training and administrative controls, which management can implement.
More importantly, once management shows its attention, support and commitment to safety, every employee will take notice. They will then pay the same attention and comply with the necessary safety practices required at the workplace where machines are used.
- Exemplary leadership in ensuring high standards of workplace safety and health is most critical. In this regard, I commend SATS for conducting today’s walkabout. I hope more companies will be inspired by your example and organise their own Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) walkabouts and campaigns in their workplaces.
Leveraging on Technology to Improve Safety
- I understand that SATS had automated some of the work processes and kitchen operations to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the workers, while boosting productivity. One of the machines SATS has installed is the Pineapple Coring Machine, which can skin and core 1800 pineapples per hour with only 2 staff! I look forward to seeing it in action later during the WSH walkabout.
Job Redesign Grant
- To help companies leverage on technology to improve safety standards and enhance production efficiency, especially for employers hiring workers aged 50 and above, MOM has introduced a Job Redesign Grant under the WorkPro scheme. WorkPro provides up to $300,000 in funding support for companies that have scalable, innovative and easily implementable solutions. I wish to take this opportunity to encourage more companies to tap on the WorkPro Grant to harness technologies to improve their work processes and raise the WSH standards. This way, companies can make their workplaces easier, safer and smarter for their workers.
WSH Council’s Safe Hands Campaign
- In April 2017, as part of the National WSH Campaign, the MOM and Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) highlighted three key areas of prevention - falls, vehicle accidents and amputations. From April to December 2017, the WSH Council has raised awareness on fall prevention and vehicle safety at the workplace through the “Target Zero Falls” and “Drive Safe, Work Safe” outreach campaigns. To ensure companies are conscientious in addressing each of the hotspots, the MOM ramped up enforcement efforts at workplaces targeted at these safety risks.
Today, the WSH Council kicks off the third and final phase of the National WSH Campaign aimed at addressing hand and finger injuries that can lead to amputations. Companies can tap on the wide range of resources the WSH Council has developed to raise workers’ awareness on hand and fingers injuries prevention. For example, the safety video “I can prevent hand injuries”, which can be downloaded though the WSH Council website and Facebook page, could be used to remind workers on common hazards encountered when operating machines.
The Safe Hands campaign comes on the heel of an enforcement operation conducted by MOM between September and November 2017, targeting machinery safety and other amputation hazards. More than 400 workplaces in the manufacturing and construction sectors were visited and over 1,000 enforcement actions were taken. Machinery-related issues were most common, numbering about 200.
The top three machinery-related issues were the lack of machine guarding, machine guards that were not kept in place, and the lack of lock-out procedures during maintenance or repair. My MOM colleagues will be sharing the technical details of the enforcement operation at next week's public seminar on the “Prevention of Amputations at Work”. Companies will also be sharing their best practices on the prevention of hand and finger injuries. I strongly encourage everyone to attend.
- Beyond industry engagements and CEO walkabout sessions, the WSH Council also aims to raise general awareness of amputation risks through the annual “Safety Starts with Me” competition. The main theme of this competition is “Safe Hands”. Members of the public can submit entries for creative story writing, creative photography, poster design, and animation and short film for this competition.
Everyone has a part to play in WSH
- In conclusion, I wish to stress that to reduce and ultimately eliminate workplace injuries, prevention is key. To achieve the vision of zero workplace incident, everyone has a part to play and can help to build a culture of prevention in their workplace. Top management should lead by example by walking the ground and providing a safe environment for workers. Workers should also be responsible for their own safety and report near misses, workplace hazards and unsafe practices to the management. Both mgmt. and workers need to work hand in hand so that everyone can work in a safe environment.
- Rome was not built in one day and not by one person. All of us have a responsibility to create a safe and healthy workplace for ourselves and our fellow workers. Let us work together and use the resources, support and knowledge available to us, to prevent workplace incidents from occurring. Thank you.