Speech at Safe Hands Campaign 2019 Launch
Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Singapore Aero Engine Services
Mr Bill Wozniak, CEO of Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL),
Mr John Ng, Chairman of Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSH),
Senior Management Representatives from SIA, and SIA Engineering Company,
Ladies and Gentlemen
- I am delighted to launch the Safe Hands Campaign today. The campaign, the third and final phase of the 2018 National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign, aims to reduce the number of machinery-related hand and finger injuries at work.
The number of hand and finger amputation cases at workplaces has decreased from 140 in 2016 to 103 in 2018. At the same time, WSH Council has also ramped up engagement efforts with companies to raise awareness on machinery safety. There have been more talks and workshops on safety trends conducted and encourage companies to adopt best practices. Case studies of machinery related incidents have also been shared proactively to help companies strengthen safety measures at the workplace.
- While I am heartened to share about the engagement efforts and decreasing number of hand and finger injuries, more can be done to prevent injuries of this nature at work. This year’s Safe Hands Campaign largely targets the metalworking sector as it accounts for one of the largest number of amputation injuries within the manufacturing industry.
To fulfil the vision of zero workplace incident, it is essential that both employers and employees conscientiously embrace the mindset that every accident is preventable, and to take ownership of WSH.
- Inspections conducted by the Ministry of Manpower last year revealed that all of the amputation injuries could have been prevented by measures, such as conducting better risk assessments, installing machine guards, and providing lock-out and tag-out procedures during maintenance and repair. It is therefore important that employers ensure regular checks are conducted and that adequate safety measures are put in place.
Measures to Address Hand Injuries
- Let me share two key measures companies can adopt to prevent hand and finger injuries at workplace.
Firstly, companies can put in place pre-emptive measures such as a near-miss reporting programme to encourage the tracking and reporting of incidents which could have resulted in accidents. Gaps in existing safety procedures can be spotted through near-miss reports and measures can be implemented to prevent future accidents. For such a programme to be successful, a blame-free environment is critical so that the emphasis is on learning rather than assigning blame. Workers should be encouraged to proactively flag out hazards without fear of reprisal. In this way, both employers and employees can work together to build safer workplaces.
- Secondly, companies should enforce appropriate control measures to improve machinery safety at work. For example, machine guards protect workers from pinch points and moving machine blades, whereas lock-out and tag-out procedures shut off the electrical sources of potentially dangerous machines before maintenance or repair works are conducted.
Here, I would like to commend SAESL for prioritising safety in all aspects of its operations. Over the years, SAESL has fostered a strong safety culture across all levels. Since the implementation of its pro-active reporting programme in 2012, where employees are encouraged to report any unsafe act or condition, SAESL’s accident frequency rate has dropped by 65% over the last three years. This shows that good outcomes can be achieved if both employers and employees work together to take greater ownership of WSH.
Launch of the Safe Hands Campaign 2019
In the last two phases of the National WSH Campaign on vehicle safety and fall prevention, over 400 companies have pledged their commitment to create safe and healthy working environments for their workers. As part of the pledge, these companies have organised workplace safety and health activities such as toolbox briefings and senior management walkabouts to show their attention and support to safety within the workplace.
For this campaign, I hope to see even more companies coming forward to pledge their commitment to reduce hand and finger injuries for their workers. The pledge can be taken on Workplace Safety and Health Council’s website, and companies that have done so will receive a campaign collaterals bundle developed by the WSH Council. Companies can also download the ‘Take Time to Take Care’ safety video to help raise awareness on hand safety at the workplace. More than 5,000 companies in the metalworking sector will be able to benefit from these resources and be reminded on safety-first practices.
In collaboration with the Workplace Safety and Health Institute, MOM has also developed the ‘Prevention of Amputations at Work’ programme to help companies manage machinery safety risks. Under the programme, consultants are deployed to assess companies’ work premises and advise them on how they can reduce machinery hazards and adopt industry best practices at no charge.
Health and Wellness
- I would add that SAESL places great importance on the health and well-being of its employees. And I hope that safety, as a core value and preoccupation, is something that companies will also adopt as a philosophy or principle. Last year, SAESL introduced a Chronic Disease Management programme which includes complimentary health screening for all employees to detect illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and stroke, so that they could receive treatment early. If such chronic diseases are not well controlled, they can lead to dizziness or a loss of consciousness at work, which can result in accidents, especially when operating machinery. Healthy workers in safe workplaces improve productivity and business outcomes.
- When companies take ownership of safety and health, the culture of prevention permeates across all levels in the organisation. Workers assured of senior management’s commitment, will be encouraged to report safety risks and provide invaluable learning from safety risks. Workers who know that their employers are committed to workplace safety and health will also be motivated to give their best, and hence, the strong link between workers’ trust and business performance.
- Let us begin this new year by reminding ourselves that we all play a part in creating safe and healthy workplaces for our workers.