Speech at Workplace Safety and Health Symposium on Cranes 2019
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, HDB Hub
Mr John Ng, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Mr Mohammed Abdul Akbar, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s National Crane Safety Taskforce,
Ladies and gentlemen.
- Good morning. I am pleased to join you for today’s Symposium. I am heartened to know that there are over 450 participants here from the crane industry. I would like to thank you for your commitment to improve the safety of crane operations at our workplaces.
- Efforts from all stakeholders to improve WSH standards in the crane industry over the years have led to a drop in the number of crane-related Dangerous Occurrences. In 2015 there were 22 cases, whereas last year, there were 12. We should not be complacent, but be further motivated to make crane operations even safer for our workers. One way we can do so is through technology.
Winning with Technology
- The adoption of technology to improve WSH outcomes within the crane industry is not something new. Many crane companies and users of cranes have embarked on their own technology transformations. For example, some companies in the landscaping sector are using mechanised cranes with claws and saws to cut tree branches. Instead of having workers work within the tight confines of a man-basket at height, they now operate comfortably and safely using a joystick control on the ground. The equipment itself comes with stabilisers that prevent overturning. This provides a safer and more efficient means of working.
- We have also seen improvements in crane safety since the introduction of data loggers in mobile cranes in 2015. Since then, the number of Dangerous Occurrences involving mobile cranes has dropped from 11 cases to 3 cases last year. For the 3 cases that occurred last year, the data loggers installed has enabled investigators to access critical information of the crane’s parameters such as weight of load and operating radius. In one of the case, the data also revealed that there had been repeated occurrences of overloading that had gone unreported. This information has enabled our investigators to quickly and accurately establish the root causes of incidents.
- Companies have also used data loggers to plan safer operations. For example, Tiong Woon Crane & Transport Pte Ltd has fitted its entire fleet of 160 mobile cranes with data loggers. The lifting data is regularly downloaded and analysed to check for unsafe lifting operations, such as instances of overloading and other unsafe manoeuvres. Supervisors can review the lifting plans for safer lifting operations or retrain their lifting personnel if necessary. The data can also be used by crane operators to track and validate lifting operations. They can learn from past lifting operations using objective data.
- Aside from improving crane safety, data loggers have also been useful in improving productivity. Previously, Tiong Woon planned its crane maintenance regime on fixed schedules. Now, Tiong Woon uses the data from data loggers to plan their maintenance regime based on actual usage. Cranes that are heavily utilised will be maintained more regularly compared to less-utilised cranes, resulting in lower downtime on their cranes and greater productivity. The Workplace Safety and Health Institute is currently studying the benefits and effects of data loggers and will be sharing the findings with the industry soon.
- MOM is currently working with industry stakeholders to test the second generation of data loggers, which will be equipped with real-time video monitoring and recording features. In the event of a safety breach, instant alerts will be sent to stakeholders. I hope to share more with you soon.
Investing in capability building
- While the adoption of technology, or the hardware, has brought about many “wins” for the industry, we also need to invest in the software - the workers behind every lifting operation. Building our workers’ capabilities plays an important part in improving our WSH outcomes. The Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council’s National Crane Safety Taskforce will be forming an industry-led workgroup on Lifting Supervisors this year. A Lifting Supervisor is crucial in the safe execution of lifting operations involving cranes. The workgroup will be looking at ways to enhance the capabilities of Lifting Supervisors to better manage the changes brought on by technology in the work environment.
- The WSH Council has reviewed and updated two safety handbooks for Lorry Crane Operators and for Riggers and Signalmen, which will be available on its website this April. Additionally, the first draft of the WSH Guidelines on Safe Operation of Lorry Cranes has been uploaded on the WSH Council’s website for industry feedback. Dangerous Occurrences involving lorry cranes may have fallen from 8 cases in 2017 to 5 cases 2018, but we can still do more. The guidelines will cover the planning for lifting in confined areas, safety procedures and precautions when using lorry cranes, and functional checks for lorry cranes. I encourage everyone to give us your feedback.
Focus on health
Investing in our workers also means paying attention to our workers’ health. If a crane operator does not feel well and loses his concentration at work, it could lead to disastrous consequences. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, which could cause dizziness and pose workplace safety risks if not properly managed.
Companies can enhance care for their workers’ health by taking an integrative approach to managing work, safety and health – a Total WSH approach. Through the Total WSH framework, workers in the construction, transport and logistics sectors can get access to health screenings. Support is available through the WSH Council for companies to initiate health screening programmes to spot chronic conditions early. Early detection can help workers improve their health conditions significantly and enable businesses to maintain a productive workforce. There are certainly benefits to businesses and workers when safety and health risks are addressed in an integrated matter.
As the saying goes – take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. I encourage companies to take the necessary steps to embark on their own Total WSH journeys.
Let us all press on and take greater ownership of WSH, so that we can realise our vision of making the crane industry one of the safest and healthiest workplaces in the world.
On that note, I wish you a fruitful Symposium ahead. Thank you.