Speech at bizSAFE Convention 2018
Mrs Josephine Teo Second Minister for Manpower, Max Atria, Singapore Expo
My Parliamentary colleague, Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower and Foreign Affairs,
Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Chairman of Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Tripartite partners, distinguished speakers, award recipients, ladies and gentlemen,
- Thank you for inviting me to join you for this occasion, where the bizSAFE Convention 2018 celebrates its tenth year. The bizSAFE community comprises committed individuals who are helping to make healthy, safe and secure workplaces a reality for everyone. The video we’ve just seen is a tribute to the many companies who have partnered us over the years to strengthen the bizSAFE framework to build up WSH capabilities in our workplaces.
- When the bizSAFE programme was first launched in 2007, the fatal injury rate in Singapore was 2.9 per 100,000 employed persons. It meant that 63 workers died that year due to injuries sustained at work. In the 10 years since, there has been steady improvements. Last year, workplace deaths fell to the lowest level since 2004, the earliest we have fatality records on a comparable basis. It is still sobering that 42 workers sustained fatal injuries, but the reduced rate of 1.2 per 100,000 is at least a meaningful improvement.
- A large part of the improvements resulted from the commitment of employers and workers to a Vision Zero mindset, where all injuries and ill-health are preventable. In other words, our starting point is that everything we see in the workplace that is unsafe or leads to poor health can be prevented. Your dedication and efforts to ensure that our workers have the opportunity to go home safe every day deserve strong commendation.
Overcoming Early Challenges
bizSAFE was launched at a time when few companies took an interest in workplace safety and health. It was not widely considered integral to business success. It was something that was perhaps nice to have, but not essential, and only done if there was time to do it. That was the attitude then. It was difficult to get things moving. So, to promote bizSAFE adoption in the Marine, Construction, Chemical, Oil and Gas industries - traditionally high risk industries - we needed help. That help came through the handful of companies with strong WSH values and which directly experienced the benefits of the the bizSAFE programme. They became the early adopters and ambassadors.
- These companies had used the bizSAFE’s structured and step-by-step approach to raise their risk management capabilities. It enabled them to identify risk in work activities early, and to take actions to eliminate the risks where possible, or, at least, to mitigate the consequences. As a result, these companies had fewer workplace accidents and injuries. This improved the well-being of their workers and enhanced their business competitiveness as fewer work stoppages improved productivity. There was a direct contribution to the bottom line, even though it was not apparent in the beginning. Their early adoption paved the way for more industries and businesses to acknowledge and accept that there is a business case to be made for prioritising safety and health at the workplace.
Today, these pioneering companies have graduated to become our bizSAFE Mentors. Through their exemplary WSH leadership, these Mentors have provided a firm hand to guide other bizSAFE Enterprises to adopt good practices. They include: -
• Cameron (Singapore) Pte Ltd;
• Mitsui Phenols Singapore Pte Ltd;
• City Developments Limited;
• Infineum Singapore Pte Ltd; and
• Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (Private) Limited.
- Thank you for your unwavering support over the years, when we called on you to host site visits for bizSAFE Conventions, to engage tertiary students to inculcate the importance of WSH and to help push your contractors to reach bizSAFE Level STAR status. Your efforts have inspired and motivated many more companies to come on board the bizSAFE programme.
- From a humble beginning of 1,900 companies in 2007, this community has now grown more than 15 times to nearly 30,000 companies, which together employ over 1.3 million workers, which is well over one-third of our workforce. More than 90 per cent of these companies are from high risk industries.
Recognising Industry Efforts
- Today, we recognise the achievements of 41 bizSAFE Award 2018 recipients. These companies exemplify the management systems and WSH commitment that all companies should strive for in providing a safe and healthy workplace. Three companies stood out this year. They are:
• LSK Engineering (S) Pte Ltd;
• Wee Chwee Huat Scaffolding & Construction Pte Ltd; and
• Wee Guan Construction Pte Ltd.
- These three companies have received the bizSAFE Exemplary Award for three consecutive years. In recognition of their consistent good WSH records, and for the first time this year, we will be presenting the bizSAFE Enterprise Exemplary Award (Gold) for their outstanding efforts.
- I would also like to commend Teambuild Engineering and Construction Pte Ltd. Teambuild has actively encouraged its contractors to not only meet the minimum bizSAFE Level 3 certification procurement criteria, but to achieve higher bizSAFE Level certification. Through its relentless efforts, all of its 600 contractors are on the bizSAFE programme today, with more than 10% of them achieving bizSAFE Level STAR. This is the largest cohort amongst the award recipients. Well done, Teambuild!
Incorporating SGSecure into BizSAFE
- I want to turn to something that is sobering. As the operating environment changes, it is important we enhance the bizSAFE framework to ensure its continual relevance in helping our companies manage the safety and health risks at their workplaces.
- This is why the WSH Council has partnered with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Manpower to incorporate SGSecure elements into the bizSAFE programme. The threat of terrorism is real and closer than we think. In this new security climate, businesses can no longer avoid making preparations for a possible attack. The key will be to ensure that the risks are adequately managed and a proper recovery plan be put in place should an incident occur. We don’t panic, but we need to make preparations.
- Through the enhanced bizSAFE programme, Level 1 to 3 attendees will learn about how to respond to terror threats and incidents at their workplaces and factor security considerations into their risk management plan and WSH policy. I am pleased to share that in the few short months since the launch in September last year, about 2,100 companies have come onboard the new enhanced bizSAFE programme. We expect more to do so as we step up our industry engagement efforts.
- One such effort is getting businesses to be prepared through exercises. For example, in November last year, I attended Exercise Heartbeat at Clarke Quay, and observed first-hand how the building management and their tenants responded to a simulated terror attack. This was in no small part due to the efforts of CapitaLand, which manages Clarke Quay. CapitaLand has been spearheading efforts to get the tenants onboard the enhanced bizSAFE programme and urging them to appoint SGSecure representatives.
- To bring more businesses on board the enhanced bizSAFE programme and appoint SGSecure representatives, MOM will partner key industry associations to strengthen outreach in five priority sectors – Food and Beverage, Retail, Entertainment, Hotels and Transport. There are regular human interactions and touch points in these industries, and are often located in iconic locations with high human traffic. Therefore, they are attractive targets. The industry associations will receive funding to organise SGSecure training and outreach activities to businesses on the benefits of bizSAFE. We expect at least another 3,000 companies in these sectors to come on board the enhanced bizSAFE programme and become SGSecure-ready in the next three years.
- As the community of WSH practitioners know very well, prevention is key. Every Life Matters. Every Accident Preventable. That is the rallying call for employers, workers, unions and the Government to work together as one to achieve Vision Zero.
- Our bizSAFE journey is not only a testament to how far we have come; but how much more we can achieve. Together, as a WSH community, we can ensure that Singapore’s workplaces are safe, healthy and secure. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all recipients of the bizSAFE Awards 2018!