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Opening Address at the Workplace Safety and Health e-Forum for the Food & Beverage Industry and Slips, Trips and Falls Campaign Launch 2021

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Virtual

Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, Chairperson, WSH Council (Hospitality and Entertainment Industries) Committee,

Industry partners, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good morning! Thank you for having me here at the first workplace safety and health (WSH) event dedicated to the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.

A rough time for Singapore’s F&B industry 

2. I acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for the F&B industry in the past year. Manpower was an issue, as border restrictions meant the industry had to rely on either existing staff double-hatting in new roles, or hire inexperienced staff. Recent dine-in restrictions imposed during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) also meant that F&B businesses have had to rely on takeaways and deliveries, which could further affect profit margins for many. 

3. The Government’s focus on its vaccination strategy is key for the economy to open up and move towards greater relaxation of measures, and hopefully, bring back business travellers and tourists back.

4. While it has been a struggle for the industry, I am heartened that many firms continue to focus on WSH.

5. I echo Ms Kwee’s point that good WSH makes good business sense, and that is why F&B firms continue to work on WSH excellence to upkeep their brand equity and continue to attract and retain manpower to the industry. No one wants to work in an accident-prone industry. 

6. However, the truth is, the trends are becoming a concern. F&B work injuries have been rising at an average of about 9% a year from 2016 to 2019, and only reduced slightly in 2020 due to COVID-related work stoppages.

Slips, Trips and Falls a key area of concern in F&B Industry

7. We need to arrest this trend. Our focus on prevention efforts is in Slips, Trips and Falls (STFs), which has been the main driver for rising F&B injuries over the past few years – increasing by an average of 12% a year from 2016 to 2019.

8. In tackling STFs, our approach should be to equip firms to:

1. Want to be safe,
2. Know how to be safe, and
3. Train to be safe. 

9. Let me elaborate on these three areas.

Want to be safe – investing time to being safe

10. Starting with “want to be safe”, we seek to help F&B owners and employees understand why it is in their interests to invest time to being safe.

11. For owners, a safe workplace and a healthy workforce means higher productivity, less time lost due to sick leave, better staff retention, and even lower costs from avoiding work injury insurance premium hikes due to injury claims.

12. For employees, good WSH sense means protecting their lives and livelihoods.   

13. Once a company wants to be safe and takes WSH ownership, good practices will filter down to all levels.

14. Take for example Neo Group, which believes that there is a correlation between workplace safety, employees’ health and good business.
• The company has adopted the “Kaizen Approach” in managing its staff - a Japanese philosophy which means “change for the better".

• As part of its Kaizen Approach, the Management team constantly involves all employees in improving processes, tools and skills not only in areas of work safety but also on personal hygiene and health.

15. After adopting the Kaizen Approach, Neo Group has not had any major workplace injuries.
• They will be sharing more on their approach and the technology they have invested in to keep its workplace and workers safe later on.
• I hope you will be able to take away some key learnings.

Know how to be safe – launch of STF Campaign 2021 for better awareness

16. Moving on to knowing how to be safe. To enable firms and workers to know how to be safe, they need to be equipped with knowledge of STF risks and how to prevent them.

17. The WSH Council offers the StartSAFE initiative and WSH Assistance Visits to help companies know how to be safer.

18. Moving forward, the WSH Council will focus more on helping workplaces with recent STF injuries.

19. The 2021 STF Campaign that we are launching today is another push to build awareness of how to be safe. STFs are the top cause of non-fatal injuries nationally.

20. The Campaign aims to guide companies to eliminate or mitigate STF hazards at their premises. Companies and workers are encouraged to adopt the following five good practices:
• Display warning signages at areas with STF risks;
• Wear non-slip footwear for wet or oily flooring;
• Hold onto railings at non-level ground;
• Remove clutter; and
• Clean spills promptly.

21. These are 5 areas in which I hope we can make a difference in managing our STF risks at workplaces. We encourage companies to take action by making an STF Resolution to implement these five steps.

22. Making an STF Resolution is simple.

23. It can be a matter of committing to a certain number of hours to conducting self-inspections, or setting aside a specific time in the week or month for housekeeping, or even something as simple as sending out regular communications to staff on the five STF steps.

24. The intent here is to commit to do specific actions to address and tackle STFs, and prevent future injuries from occurring.

25. In addition, as part of the STF Campaign, regular learning journeys to companies in high STF-risk industries will be organised, with the first one commencing in August.

26. These industry learning journeys encourage the sharing and learning of best practices across various industries so that everyone can learn something from each other and bring it back to their own workplaces for implementation.

27. The key learning points will also be shared as digital content to benefit a wider audience.

Train to be safe – empowering workers through training for STF prevention

28. And thirdly, train to be safe. To sustain knowledge on how to be safe, workers need to be trained to be safe. This needs to be done systematically.

29. We have included WSH segments on STFs, in the mandatory Food Safety Course Level 1 on food hygiene for food handlers to create better awareness on the risks they may face and knowledge on how to prevent STFs.

30. This way, all food handlers will have STF prevention knowledge.

31. But this alone is not enough. I would like to encourage all employers to conduct internal trainings for their workers, especially new ones, to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge on how to protect themselves.

32. This can help to further reduce and prevent the occurrences of STFs. 


33. In conclusion, I hope the forum today will be useful for you in helping to address WSH and STF issues at your workplaces.

34. Please remember to always Take Time to Take Care of your safety and health, especially as we are in the middle of this pandemic.

35. I hope you will enjoy the rest of the forum and have a fruitful morning.

36. Thank you.