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Opening Address at bizSAFE Convention 2019

Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Max Atria @ Singapore Expo

Mr John Ng, Chairman of Workplace Safety & Health Council,

Tripartite partners,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

  1. Good morning. Today, we celebrate the achievements of 50 exemplary partners, organisations and individuals. These bizSAFE award recipients are committed to providing safe and healthy workplaces, and have put in place measures to protect workers, contractors and tenants from workplace accidents.
  2. Last week, MOM released the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Statistics for 2018 and we reported that the workplace fatality rate was 1.2 per 100,000 workers. Even though we managed to sustain the rate at 1.2, it meant that 41 workers did not make it home last year. To the family of the deceased, the loss of their loved ones is permanent and the grief is deep. Working should not bring about such searing loss.
  3. Beyond fatality, I am also concerned with the increase in major injuries from 574 in 2017 to 596 in 2018. The top three causes were slips, trips and falls, machinery incidents, and falls from height, which accounted for almost 60%, or 349 cases, of major injuries. Among them, there was a pronounced 15% increase in the number of slips, trips and falls across a variety of industries, including those that were traditionally of lower risk.
  4. There was also an increase in the number of minor injuries in 2018. In total, we had 12,810 workplace injuries last year, compared to 12,498 cases the year before. This translates to 1.5 accidents every hour last year! By putting it in such stark terms, I hope it can serve as a clarion call to action for all of us to do more to reduce injuries at the workplace.
  5. The theme for this year’s bizSAFE Convention “Take Time to Take Care of Your Safety and Health” is a fitting one. The over 12,000 injuries last year could have been prevented if management and workers had taken time and effort to put in adequate safety and health measures. Anecdotally, we know that it is easy and convenient to ignore safety and health precautions especially when we are rushing to complete the work. There may be deadlines and client demands, but all it takes is a momentary lapse and the consequences can be dire.
  6. For our safety and health initiatives to succeed, we need co-workers including supervisors and managers to help and take care of each other. We want to advocate a culture of care at the workplaces. With care, comes trust, and when there is trust, we can accomplish much more to prevent accidents at the workplace. Every worker wants to be assured that they can trust the management to take care of them, and to ensure that they have the right safety tools and procedures in place.

    Sixty-Six Switchgear: Fostering culture of care from within
  7. Let me share with you the efforts of three organisations and an individual who have exhibited this culture of care, trust and prevention, after embarking on the bizSAFE programme.
  8. One of the recipients of the bizSAFE Exemplary Award, Sixty-Six Switchgear, an SME that specialises in high voltage electrical equipment engineering, has been encouraging employees to report near misses and unsafe acts, since coming on-board the bizSAFE programme ten years ago. These actions have helped to cultivate the culture of openness and employees are willing to share and suggest without the fear of being reprimanded.
  9. Fostering such an open culture of sharing without blame did not come easy, and required the collective effort of management and employees, as well as a champion to drive the initiatives. The champion in Sixty-Six Switchgears is Mr Tomabo Jiao Jian, a business development manager. With support from his management, he implemented a heart-to-heart programme in the company.
  10. Under the programme, Mr Tomabo advocates for workplace safety and lends a listening ear when workers share about their difficulties. He takes their concerns seriously and mediates with management to improve the work environment.
  11. Sometimes, workers even share personal problems with Mr Tomabo, who will in turn offer help and advice. The trust he has forged with his colleagues has enabled him to rally them to cultivate a safety first mind-set. He even co-created a safety song with his colleagues to play in the office and remind them to take ownership of WSH!
  12. Through Mr Tomabo and others like him, Sixty-Six Switchgears has nurtured a culture of care at the workplace and for the past five years, the company has maintained a zero-accident record.
  13. I am happy to know that Mr Tomabo has been awarded the bizSAFE champion Award today. I hope to give out more awards to bizSAFE champions in the coming years.

    C&W Services: Caring beyond the Organisation
  14. The second company, C&W Services, which provides integrated facility management services, exemplifies how a company with a strong WSH culture can exert positive influences on external stakeholders.
  15. Besides building up its risk management capabilities through the bizSAFE programme, C&W Services developed programmes on healthy eating and introduced different types of workout sessions such as yoga and Zumba for its employees to promote an active lifestyle. A stress management programme was introduced to help staff manage situational stress and improve overall mental health.
  16. The programmes, which are open to all 1,900 of their employees, have helped to build an increased level of interaction and collaboration among employees and improved their overall well-being. 
  17. Besides working with developers, property owners and occupiers to address safety risks at the workplace and promote WSH best practices, C&W Services has mandated bizSAFE as a criterion when evaluating new contractors for their work.
  18. Thanks to their efforts, all their contractors are now part of the bizSAFE programme. I hope more companies will follow suit and incorporate bizSAFE and WSH priorities into their business models and procurement requirements. This is how companies can influence others around them to adopt safe practices. Once their contractors do so, they become part of the companies’ work deliverables.

    313@somerset: Raising the Risk Management Capabilities of Tenants
  19. Some companies also strive to strengthen their risk management capabilities in security. Shopping mall 313@somerset, managed by property developer Lendlease, is one example. To ensure the safety of patrons, store employees and management staff, 90% of its tenants have been trained to assess and respond to terror threats. This helps them to improve the safety of their patrons and store employees, while securing their physical assets in the event of a terror threat.
  20. I urge other companies to do the same by building up capabilities in managing not just WSH risks, but security risks too.

  21. These three organisations represent the common traits that the judges have found in the 41 bizSAFE company awards recipients this year. They have achieved remarkable WSH outcomes by building a culture of care, not just within but also beyond their organisation.
  22. As we celebrate the achievements of the bizSAFE community, we should be resolute to build a strong culture of care at our workplaces for years to come and create a working environment that protects our workers from harm.
  23. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all the recipients of the bizSAFE Awards 2019. Thank you!