Opening Address at Workplace Safety and Health Forum on Kitchen Safety
Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Regent Singapore
Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, President, Singapore Hotel Association and Chairperson and WSH Council (Hospitality and Entertainment Industries) Committee,
Members of the WSH Council (Hospitality and Entertainment Industries) Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen.
- Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here at the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Forum on Kitchen Safety organised by the Singapore Hotel Association, held in conjunction with its Slips, Trips and Falls (STF) Campaign for the hospitality sector.
Increase in STF workplace incidents over the years
- Slips, Trips and Falls or STF, have contributed close to 30% of all workplace injuries, affecting more than 3,000 employees annually over the past 4 years. In the first half of 2019, we have also seen a 6% increase in STF injuries, compared to the same period last year1. This increase is worrying, especially for the hospitality and entertainment industry where STF injuries have consistently remained as the most common injury type.
- A further analysis revealed that close to 50% of the STF injuries in the hospitality and entertainment industry happened in the kitchen. Those who were the most susceptible to STF were the staff working in kitchens of hotels and Food & Beverage outlets, with 80% of these incidents happening during peak periods, due to lapses in safety that occur while trying to get work done quickly.
- When such safety and health risks in kitchens are not well-managed, the consequences can be dire and at times, fatal. In January this year, a worker slipped in the kitchen and accidentally grabbed onto a pot of scalding hot oil that spilled onto her. She suffered 80% burns throughout her body and eventually succumbed to her injuries. This reminds us to be mindful of the risks in a kitchen environment, and of the need to implement effective procedures to prevent such accidents.
MOM’s enforcement operation targeting STF
- In response to the increase in STF, the Ministry of Manpower mounted a targeted enforcement operation in June and July this year. Close to 500 inspections were conducted in various sectors where STF are common, such as construction, manufacturing, accommodation, food services, transport and storage, and wholesale trade. A total of 876 enforcement actions were taken against 439 companies, including four Stop-Work Orders and 144 composition fines amounting to $164,000. The top contraventions uncovered include poor housekeeping which can lead to tripping hazards, wet, slippery or damaged floors, and the failure to implement control measures to prevent STF.
- These numbers and observations indicate that companies need to be more conscientious in identifying and addressing STF risks in the workplace. As part of the STF Campaign, the SHA will be working closely with WSH Council to conduct a own safety week and share best practices with SHA members to prevent STF in kitchens. Let me share three of them.
Measures to prevent STF
- First, companies should always maintain good housekeeping in the kitchen. These include ensuring that the floors are clean and dry, pathways are cleared of unnecessary items for the ease of movement, and products are properly stored and labelled to facilitate quick retrieval. Employers should educate workers on proper housekeeping standards and provide adequate supervision and training so that they can maintain good housekeeping regime. One of the speakers will be sharing with us later on examples of good housekeeping practices that you can adopt.
- Second, employers should implement control measures to mitigate STF risks. There are simple and practical controls against STF risks. Regent Singapore installed anti-slip floorings and mats within the kitchen areas and put up signage to caution workers of hazards such as wet and slippery floors. Workers are also required to wear full rubber-soled shoes to prevent STF incidents. Besides these control measures, Regent has also fostered a strong safety culture across the organisation over the years. It actively shares information on workplace accidents on noticeboards to raise awareness about safety and encourages workers to report unsafe conditions. The hotel also organises safety weeks where training sessions are held to educate workers on various safety-related topics. Well done Regent Singapore!
- Achieving good WSH requires the collective effort of both employers and employees. While employers have to provide workers with a safe and healthy workplace, employees themselves should take ownership of their personal and co-workers’ safety. Let me share an example. Mandarin Oriental noticed an increase in its number of STF cases caused by distracted walking, where its workers tripped or fell when using their phones while walking. To ensure workers are aware of the dangers of texting and walking, the hotel conducted a month-long ‘Look Up, Look Out!’ campaign, where workers would be issued with an awareness ticket if they were found walking and using phones simultaneously.
- This campaign increased interactions between workers and engendered a culture of care and trust by encouraging workers to look out for each other’s safety. The number of STF incidents has also reduced significantly and no injuries were reported due to distracted walking last year. Well done Mandarin Oriental!
Improving kitchen safety with technology
- Besides preventing STF, workers should look out for other hazards in the kitchen such as burns and scalds, which can similarly be eliminated by adopting upstream measures such as technology.
- M Social Singapore has been harnessing technology to make work processes safer and more efficient. It introduced the “Automated Service Chef Associate”, an egg-cooking robot which takes less than two minutes to cook and serve a sunny-side-up or omelette to customers, without the need for any human supervision or intervention. This not only eliminates the risk of scalding, but also improves productivity as chefs can be re-assigned to perform other tasks. I urge companies to leverage technology, whenever possible, to better manage WSH risks and make kitchens a safe workplace. Good job!
Spreading the message on kitchen safety
- Besides adopting these best practices, companies can also tap on the collaterals and guidelines produced by the WSH Council to instil the awareness of kitchen safety among workers. The WSH Council (Hospitality and Entertainment Industries) Committee has collaborated with social media companies SGAG and Mothership to produce two educational videos and an article on the types of injuries and hazards faced by kitchen staff. These useful resources will go a long way in spreading the important message on kitchen safety.
- Moving forward, the WSH Council (Hospitality and Entertainment Industries) Committee will also be working with the different associations and industry partners to come up with plans to improve kitchen safety over the next few years.
- Kitchen safety is often overlooked. Accidents can happen in a split second when one is not careful or when one takes a shortcut. I hope that the information shared today will be useful in helping you manage STF risks at the workplace.
- Let’s all work together to provide safe and healthy workplaces for our workers.
- On that note, I wish you a fruitful forum ahead. Thank you.