Opening Speech at Workplace Safety and Health Awards 2019
Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo, Resorts World Convention Centre
Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council,
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower,
Mr Melvin Yong, my Parliamentary colleague,
Dr Robert Yap, President of Singapore National Employers Federation,
Members of the WSH Council and Committees,
Industry partners and supporters,
Friends and colleagues,
- Good evening. MOS Zaqy and I are very happy to join you for the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards.
WSH Journey Over the Years
- Singapore’s WSH performance has improved steadily over the past decade. Our workplace fatal injury rate reduced from 4.9 per 100,000 workers in 2004 to 1.2 per 100,000 workers in 2017 and 2018. The first half of 2019 also recorded the lowest half-yearly number of workplace fatality cases with 17 cases.
- To reaffirm our commitment to provide workers with among the safest and healthiest workplaces in the world, Singapore ratified the International Labour Organisation’s occupational safety and health convention last month with the support of our tripartite partners. This ratification is in line with our WSH 2028 aspiration to further reduce and sustain our workplace fatal injury rate at less than 1.0 per 100,000 workers by 2028. Getting there is one thing, sustaining our performance at that level is quite another challenge.
- One of the most important ways to achieve that vision is to build a strong safety culture. We know that takes time. Our WSH improvement was only made possible because our tripartite partners were driven to enhance the livelihood and working conditions of our workers.
Sustaining Singapore’s WSH Improvement
- To sustain our WSH improvement, we must not let our guard down and continue to keep WSH at the top of our minds. This is easier said than done. With an upturn expected for the construction sector spurred by mega projects over the next decade, companies will likely bring more construction workers to Singapore.
- MOM encourages companies to hire or retain higher skilled and experienced workers as they are already in tune with Singapore’s way of life and safety culture. However, we must not forget the new and inexperienced workers too, who face a higher risk of injuries. I hope companies will respond to the call to dedicate more resources to help these workers adapt to their work environments and avoid WSH hazards.
- For instance, companies can help supervisors and co-workers to identify new workers easily by providing them with helmets of a different colour or even conspicuous accessories such as newbie armbands. It’s in your own best interest to minimise downtime due to accidents and injuries.
- It is equally important for employers in the other sectors to stay vigilant. Workers who are assured of their employers’ commitment to take care of their safety and health will be motivated to give their best at work and will help employers navigate challenging times ahead.
- Tonight, we honour 168 award recipients who are committed to WSH and who will be recognised for their efforts in ensuring that their workers went home safely and healthily to their family members last year. These recipients have exemplified the spirit of WSH 2028 by taking greater ownership of WSH, enhancing workplace health and using technology to improve WSH outcomes. Let me share three profiles.
Strengthening WSH Ownership
- The first is Kuan Aik Hong Construction Pte Ltd, a second-time Silver Award Winner which places great emphasis on empowering workers to take WSH ownership. It has put in place a near-miss reporting programme and assigned a safety officer and project manager to encourage workers during daily toolbox meetings to report safety gaps and rectify lapses.
- To incentivise workers to flag out hazards, the company presents supermarket vouchers every month to workers who reported significant hazards during its safety promotion day. Various channels such as physical and online incident reporting forms are also made available to workers to facilitate reporting. These are the types of initiatives put in by the management to foster a no-blame culture and build safer workplaces.
- Here, I would like to share a story of Nizam, a site supervisor with the company, who is never afraid to report near misses for the safety of his co-workers.
- During the civil works of a building project, he came across steel plates that were laid on soft ground after overnight rain.
- The steel plates were covering an access ramp to an underground detention tank in an excavation site, and could pose as a safety hazard to the users of the ramp.
- Just as Nizam saw an excavator entering the excavation site, he quickly stopped all works and gathered the safety officers and site engineer to collectively review the site conditions.
- On top of removing the steel plates, the team also compacted the ramp with crushed concrete and gravel to provide more grip for the excavator.
- This shows how the no-blame culture at Kuan Aik Hong Construction encourages workers to stay vigilant and speak out on near misses, even if work speed may be compromised.
- By empowering workers to take charge of their personal and co-workers’ safety, Kuan Aik Hong Construction has since achieved 1.5 million accident-free man hours. Congratulations and well done!
Enhancing Workplace Health
- The next example that I would like to share is another Silver Award recipient, a progressive company that sees the merits of caring for not only the safety, but the health of their workers too.
- To minimise the risk of heat stress to its workers, Nishimatsu Construction actively monitors the temperature and relative humidity of the day. The board containing the heat index is prominently displayed at the worksite to remind supervisors and workers to watch out for heat stress symptoms. A risk assessment is then conducted and mitigating measures are implemented accordingly to ensure workers’ well-being.
- In addition, the company organises monthly fruits day to promote healthy eating, regular sports activities to keep workers fit, and mental wellness talks to boost emotional health. Regular health screening and follow-up checks are also provided to help employees detect and manage illnesses. With so many programmes in place, we can see the management’s commitment to the health and well-being of its employees.
- To help companies implement workplace interventions to promote the well-being of workers, the WSH Council and Health Promotion Board launched the one-year Total WSH assistance programme two weeks ago. I hope to see more companies use the programme to keep employees engaged and healthy.
Harnessing Technology to Improve WSH
- Technology has immense potential to transform businesses and work processes. As Singapore progresses towards becoming a Smart Nation, more companies are harnessing technology to make work processes leaner and safer. Innovation award winner Keppel FELS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Offshore & Marine, is one such company.
- Before Keppel Offshore & Marine came up with the idea of using a smart unmanned inspection robot, a worker from a team of eight had to go into a small and tight underground confined space to check on the conditions of bus-bars. Bus-bars, which powered up luffing cranes, had to be inspected regularly as corroded bus-bars can adversely affect crane operations.
- The inspection robot developed by Keppel Offshore & Marine not only eliminated the risks of having a person work within a confined space, but also captures valuable footage of the conditions of bus-bars through an in-built camera. Using predictive analysis, the company analyses the footage to project the likelihood of rusting occurrences. Arrangements can therefore be made early to replace the bus-bars before they weaken.
- By harnessing technology, the company reduced the number of man-hours required for the preparation and execution of the inspection process by over 95% from 303 hours to 13 hours. Manpower requirements fell by 75% from eight to two men. Not only were workers re-deployed for more value-added work, the company also maintained the operability of bus-bars, and most importantly, safeguarded the safety and health of their workers. Good job!
- As we celebrate our achievements tonight, I urge you to continue to step up your efforts to improve WSH and inspire your clients, partners, and contractors to do likewise, so that we can collectively maintain high WSH standards. I am confident that if we choose to work together, we can raise Singapore’s WSH performance to be among the best in the world within the next decade by taking greater WSH ownership, enhancing focus on workplace health, and promoting technology-enabled WSH outcomes.
- Congratulations to all the award winners.
- I wish you all a pleasant evening. Thank you!