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Opening Speech at Workplace Safety and Health Awards 2018

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre

Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council,
Members of the WSH Council and Committees,
Award recipients,
Friends and colleagues,

  1. Minister-of-State Zaqy and I are very happy to join you this evening for the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards.
  2. Tonight, we recognise the achievements of the 158 award recipients who have made outstanding contributions to WSH last year. Collectively, the efforts of these companies and individuals have ensured that over 150,000 workers go home safely each day. Please join me in commending them with a round of applause!

    WSH Ownership
  3. The award recipients share one common characteristic, and that is a strong ownership of WSH. The senior management of these companies are motivated to improve WSH, not simply to adhere to regulations, but because they care for their workers. They initiate systems and processes to ensure the safety and health of their workers, going beyond what is required by legislation. Let me highlight two examples.
  4. First time Gold Award Winner, Keppel Singmarine, is the specialised shipbuilding arm of Keppel Offshore & Marine. The company operates yards in Singapore and overseas, and has several hundred workers and contractors on-site at any one time.
  5. Keppel Singmarine, which is part of the Keppel Group, forges a strong culture of WSH ownership up and down its value chain. One of Keppel’s five safety principles is that, “Everyone is empowered to stop any unsafe work”. This encourages workers to adopt a proactive role when it comes to incident prevention. As a result, Keppel Singmarine remained accident-free throughout 2017.
  6. Keppel Singmarine’s efforts prove that a strong sense of ownership makes a real difference.
  7. Our next example is also a first time Gold award recipient - Bintai Kindenko. The company regularly shares near-miss incidents on-site for the purposes of cross-learning, and includes both employees and sub-contractors in its safety journey. Workers also participate in daily morning stretching exercises together, which not only builds camaraderie, but also helps the workers to stay alert at work. In the longer term, these daily exercises improve workers’ muscular balance, posture, and hand-leg coordination.
  8. Bintai’s efforts have paid off – it has remained accident- free since 2014. This is proof that companies can be progressive in their WSH journey, so long as they have the right heart and mind-set.
  9. Congratulations and well done to both Keppel Singmarine and Bintai Kindenko!

    Innovation as a way forward
  10. Several award winners have embraced the spirit of innovation to transform their processes, which has not only increased business productivity, but also safeguarded the safety and health of their workers.
  11. This year, we have 11 award recipients under the Innovation category, the highest so far in the last 5 years. This is indeed encouraging.
  12. Take CYC International as an example. In 2016, the company developed a tank cleaning robot, which they have named “Melissa”. With the robot, the company eliminated the need for manpower to carry out cleaning processes in tanks. However, CYC International did not stop there.
  13. This year, they created an improved model named “Olivia”, a submersible machine which cleans underwater thick sludge, chokes and waste, not only in tanks, but also in areas such as cooling tower basins, sump pits, interceptor pits, and large public drainage systems, amongst others.
  14. “Olivia” eliminated the risks associated with the traditional method of man-entry into confined spaces, and reduced the impact of heat stress and fatigue for workers during difficult phases of cleaning. In addition, it also reduced the amount of manpower needed – from 20 men to 6 – as well as the cost of water disposal - from about $10,000 to $500. Well done, CYC International!
  15. Technological advancements in recent years have placed us in a good position for significant breakthroughs in both business productivity and WSH performance. I hope that the good examples shown by today’s award recipients will encourage the industry to further adopt and leverage technology to improve their businesses and WSH outcomes.

    WSH2028 Tripartite Strategy Committee – Consultations with key stakeholders have started
  16. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Manpower announced that a WSH2028 Tripartite Strategy Committee (TSC) will be formed to chart a comprehensive plan for WSH development over the next 10 years.
  17. I am pleased to share that the committee has started consultations with key stakeholders, including workers, unions and WSH professionals. With their inputs, the Committee will seek the International Advisory Panel’s views on its draft recommendations and present it for further discussion at the upcoming 2018 WSH Conference in August.
  18. In the meantime, the Committee has been focused on how we can help each other achieve breakthroughs in WSH performance.
  19. One recurring theme that surfaced, was the need for WSH ownership to be driven from the top. If the senior management of companies are committed to WSH, they will naturally set the tone for the rest of the company to follow. This applies not only within companies, but also extends to sub-contractors and suppliers. Conversely, if the senior management shows little or no interest, it is unlikely that the rest of the company or its associates will take WSH seriously.
  20. For instance, some companies require their sub-contractors to have bizSAFE Level 3 certification as a minimum. When the customer imposes such a requirement, it reinforces the importance of safety and health in the workplace. Both sides also stand to gain from reduced downtime due to accidents or costs incurred because of safety lapses.
  21. The Committee will propose ideas on how to influence the senior management teams of many more companies to have the same strong WSH ownership as our award recipients tonight.

    WSH vision for the future
  22. Everyone here tonight is a leader in WSH. Keep up the good work, and influence your clients, partners, and contractors to keep to the same high standards. I hope you will inspire and encourage each other to sustain your sense of ownership and commitment to WSH, so that these values become ingrained into the DNA of our businesses and workers.
  23. Our belief is that all injuries and ill health at work are preventable. This is in fact, the ambition when we launched Vision Zero in 2015. To turn Vision Zero into reality, every boss should be a WSH inspector, who leads by example to police their own site conditions to prevent lapses; and every worker should be a WSH professional, who possesses the skills and knowledge to perform work duties in safer and healthier ways.
  24. Let us all continue to work in close collaboration, and I wish all of you a safer and healthier year at work. Thank you!