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Opening Address at 19th Workplace Safety and Health Officers Conference

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability (e2i)

Mr Darajit Daud, Vice-President of the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers,
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning.

1. I’m pleased to join all of you today at the 19th Workplace Safety and Health Officers (WSHO) Conference.

2. As WSHOs amid this pandemic, you have all played a key role in ensuring that companies are implementing Safe Management Measures (SMMs) at the workplace. This has not been easy, given that the SMMs have been very dynamic in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Every few weeks, months, we are learning something new about the virus and how to contain it. There are new solutions that come out, we have to watch the data very closely, and certainly I think for many of you, you have also had to adapt to many of our measures as new variants emerge and new solutions come onboard. So I would like to thank all of you for your patience, and more importantly, for stepping up to build a safe and healthy workplace.

Evolving Role of WSHOs
3. The theme for this year’s Conference is on the role of WSHOs in integrating occupational safety, health and well-being at our workplaces as we move to COVID-19 being endemic. This is especially apt, as Singapore moves towards becoming a COVID-resilient nation. We must look beyond traditional workplace safety and health issues. In particular, we should address new risks, such as transmission of infectious diseases in the workplace, as well as mental well-being.

4. For example, Christina Chua, a Health, Safety and Environment Manager at Cameron Singapore Pte Ltd, took on the role of Safe Management Officer in addition to her role of managing workplace safety and health. Her new duties included coordinating with various departments on SMMs, ensuring vaccinations and regular testing were carried out, and following up with workers who tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, her management at Cameron Singapore has been supportive in implementing new measures at the workplace. Christina and her team had to quickly adapt to the changing landscape, even facing resistance from their fellow colleagues at certain points. I think some of you may have felt the same way, as measures shifted, your colleagues needed to adapt to new SMMs. People are used to doing things a certain way, and we all had to adapt to make our workplaces safer. Despite this, she continues to soldier on, believing that workplace safety and health is of utmost importance to her organisation, and that every workplace incident is preventable.

5. My Ministry has received frank feedback from WSHOs such as Christina, that the past 2 years have been very challenging, as they have to juggle preventing accidents while at the same time preventing COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. WSHOs who were not given more resources and support found it even more challenging.

6. For companies to manage both injury and COVID-19 prevention well, they need to acknowledge the valuable role of WSHOs and equip them with the proper resources and skills. These two areas are critical to avoid costly disruptions to work, and to protect workers’ welfare. These cannot be only the WSHOs’ responsibility. They are the entire company’s responsibility. Therefore, employers should allocate sufficient manpower and resources to take care of both health promotion and accident prevention. Employers should also allocate time and resources for WSHOs to attend training and build up their skills, as this goes beyond what they traditionally train for, and there is much more to be learnt, especially beyond typical workplace safety and health.

Third Revision of the Risk Management Code of Practice
7. The Government will also be doing its part to support WSHOs by expanding the Risk Management Code of Practice. Risk management is a crucial capability for companies to sustain their operations and growth. It mitigates potential disruptions in a cost-effective way.

8. The third revision of the Code of Practice will include new risks associated with infectious disease outbreaks, mental well-being, and terrorism threats. There will also be more examples, from identifying and evaluating potential risks, to implementing risk controls. This will help companies better understand how to build resilience in these new areas.

9. MOM and the WSH Council will also continue to engage and guide employers and WSHOs in these new and existing risk areas. For example: 

a. Starting from Jan 2022, the bizSAFE training curriculum will include scenarios of the new risk areas. Companies that register for bizSAFE certification will be trained in identifying and mitigating this broader spectrum of risks. 

b. Employers can also access resources on MOM’s and WSH Council’s websites to get practical guidance on creating a safe and healthy workplace. These include the Requirements for SMMs at the Workplace, and the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces.

c. Companies keen on building their capability to address workplace risks, including mental well-being, and infectious disease prevention, can start by registering for the WSH Council’s Total WSH programme. It is free for employees who are first-time participants.

d. In the coming months, MOM’s inspectors will also look out for these elements in companies’ risk assessments and advise companies on incorporating them if absent.

Improvements to the Safety Development Units (SDU) Framework
10. Through the pandemic, we have recognised that WSHOs need new skill sets to adapt to the changing environment, and the changing landscape. As such, MOM is working with the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO) to improve the current Safety Development Units (SDU) framework. The revised framework will recognise other courses, such as coaching skills to support the professional development of WSHOs. It will also simplify the administration of SDU points. My colleague will share more on this later today.

Memorandum of Understanding between SISO and e2i
11. SISO and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) will also be signing an MOU to boost the capabilities of WSH professionals, and enable better job redesign. The MOU will see the creation of the SISO-e2i Job Portal by February next year. It will be a one-stop recruitment platform for employers to post vacancies, and for jobseekers to find career opportunities and upskilling resources. A second initiative under the MOU will be the launch of a Career Development Plan for WSH professionals. It will put in place a structured career progression pathway for WSH professionals. There will be clear steps for advancement, in terms of wages, skills and job roles. More details on this will be shared next year.

12. In conclusion, we recognise that the scope and concerns surrounding workplace safety and health have transformed due to the pandemic. As a result, the role and responsibilities held by WSHOs have also evolved and become even more critical than before. The Government will do its best to support all WSHOs as they adapt to the expanded scope of work. I urge employers to recognise the important role played by your WSHOs. I encourage them to provide our WSHOs with the necessary recognition, resources and skills to keep our workplaces safe.

13. MOM and the WSH Council will work with WSH organisations, such as SISO, to ensure that our WSH professionals are future-ready. You will be equipped to deal with new safety and health risks in a COVID-resilient world.

14. I wish you all the best, and I want to thank all our WSH Officers for all their hard work, their patience and for holding on during this trying period. I hope that you will see a brighter year ahead as we overcome this pandemic. I wish all of you a fruitful Conference ahead. Thank you!