Speech at Launch of Target Zero Falls Campaign at Work at Heights Forum 2018
Mr Zaqy Mohamad Minister of State for Manpower, Sands Expo & Convention Centre
Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council
Mr Abu Bakar, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council National Work at Heights Safety Taskforce,
Mr Bernard Soh, President, Singapore Institution of Safety Officers,
Mr Raymond Wat, Regional General Manager, International Powered Access Federation,
Distinguished speakers and guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.
- I would like to thank the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers and International Powered Access Federation for organising this forum together with the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council’s National Work at Heights Safety Taskforce.
Collaborative efforts by the industry stakeholders helped to reduce workplace fatalities and injuries
- Since its formation in 2009, the Taskforce has rolled out many outreach programmes to raise awareness on Work at Heights safety issues, and to educate workers and employers on how they can mitigate or even eliminate Work at Height hazards.
- Through the Taskforce’s efforts, and with the continuous support from industry stakeholders, improvements have been made. The number of fatal cases has fallen from 24 cases in 2009, to 8 cases in 2017. The number of injuries has also reduced, from 388 cases between January to July last year, to 358 cases for the same period this year.
Launch of the “Target Zero Falls” Campaign 2018
- Even though the progress is encouraging, more work needs to be done. So far this year, there have been five fatal incidents related to fall from heights. Out of the five fatal incidents, four were due to open sides and fragile surfaces. Hence, this year’s campaign will focus on the importance of having proper safety controls to eliminate or mitigate risks involving open sides, fragile surfaces and roofing works.
- Companies can tap on our Mobile Work at Heights (MWAH) Clinic to manage these risks. An appointed WSH consultant will visit worksites and provide onsite practical guidance to supervisors and workers on Work at Heights safety. The WSH consultants have so far visited 83 sites in the construction, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. I urge companies to contact the WSH Council to sign up for this free service.
- To spread the message to workers, a “Target Zero Falls” campaign video and a series of stickers with safety messages have been prepared. The safety messages will remind workers to keep a lookout for safety risks relating to open sides and fragile surfaces. We hope to reach out to 50,000 workers through training providers, companies, associations and our partners over the next three months.
- The WSH Council will also be working with industry partners to encourage companies to conduct senior management walkabouts and ‘Safety Time Outs’ on Work at Heights activities. These Safety Time Outs, where companies pause their routine operations and review their work activities and systems, are useful as companies can immediately assess the risks faced by their workers and implement mitigating measures or work processes where necessary. Last year, we know of more than 300 companies that conducted their own senior management walkabouts in support of the “Target Zero Falls” campaign. This year, I hope more companies will come on board. The Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) will be taking the lead by organising a site walk this Tuesday at a construction worksite. I’m delighted to join the visit, and look forward to see how the company is addressing Work at Height hazards through the adoption of technology.
Using innovation and technology to further improve safety outcomes
- Many companies have started using technology to reduce Work at Heights risks. They have mounted cameras around a worksite to help detect Work at Height activities that are conducted without proper safeguards. Safety officers can identify and rectify WSH issues before incidents happen, simply by viewing a video.
- Technology has also transformed the way workers are trained. Virtual reality or VR training enables a more realistic and interactive learning environment. Workers who are able to solve WSH problems in a simulated worksite are more likely to retain knowledge longer, as opposed to learning within a traditional classroom setting because VR training is more experiential and immersive.
- I encourage companies that have benefited from technology to share their best practices with other companies. When employers see how technology improves both safety and productivity at the workplace, they will be more open to make similar investments. The WSH Council will be organising a lunchtime WSH Technology Talk on Working at Heights later this year. Lendlease will be participating to share the positive WSH outcomes each contractor has reaped as the result of adopting technology. We hope you will join us at the WSH Technology Talk to learn from the best in terms of technology implementation.
Building the right culture and behaviour for safer workplaces
- To achieve Singapore’s vision for a healthy workforce in safe workplaces, developers, main contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, and workers have a part to play in building a culture of Prevention, Care and Trust.
- Developers and main contractors can be more discerning and procure services or products from companies with good WSH performance, to promote a culture of prevention. This sends a clear signal to any customer, that as a contractor or as a company, you care. It also sends a signal to your workers that you care about their safety, and are committed to create a safer and better work environment. Subcontractors, suppliers and companies can also build trust among workers by encouraging open communication. One example is for companies to encourage workers to report near-miss incidents or any WSH lapses to management through the SnapSAFE mobile app without fear of being blamed. As long as we are open to learn from one another and to learn from mistakes, the culture of prevention and trust can be strengthened.
- A workplace culture that cares for workers will inevitably pay attention to workers’ health. When workers are not feeling well, they may be less attentive to safety concerns when working at heights and this could result in falls. With a culture of prevention, care and trust in place, employers will also reap productivity gains in the long run. As the saying goes, a healthy worker is not just a happy worker but a productive one as well.
- I would like to thank the speakers and participants for attending this forum. I hope the talks and discussions today will be useful, in helping address Work at Height issues at your respective workplaces.
- I wish you all a fruitful forum. Thank you.