Speech by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad at Safe Hands Campaign 2022
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower
Mr Douglas Foo, Chairman, WSH Council (Manufacturing) Committee
Thong Siek, who is hosting us today,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good morning everyone. I am glad to be here once again at the annual Safe Hands Campaign launch. Over the years, the campaign has raised awareness on how to prevent hand and finger injuries. It also got companies to pledge their commitment towards a safe and healthy working environment.
2. I applaud all companies that have made the Safe Hands pledge. I’m heartened to learn that we have more than 900 pledges this year. That’s three times the 300 pledges we received in 2018! A big high – five to the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, which has partnered the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council in organising this campaign since 2020.
Increasing Focus on the Food Manufacturing Sub-sector
3. There has been an encouraging reduction in the number of amputation injuries in the last two years for the entire manufacturing sector, which is very commendable. There were 41 amputations in 2021, down from 59 amputations in 2019. While we are happy with the reduction, let’s not forget that the impact of hand injuries is devastating, permanent and leads to disruptions, like to the 41 injured persons’ way of life. Therefore, we can and must do our utmost to prevent such accidents.
4. Previous Safe Hands Campaigns focused on the Metalworking sub sector, and we are encouraged to see the reduction of amputations injuries coming down from 25 in 2019 to 15 last year. This year, the Safe Hands Campaign will focus on the Food Manufacturing sub-sector, which accounts for the second highest incidents of amputation injuries. There were 11 amputation injuries in the Food Manufacturing subsector in 2019 and this reduced to 9 last year.
5. Amputation injuries often arise due to two reasons. One, absent or improper guarding which exposes workers’ hands to moving parts of the machine. For this, companies and supervisors play a key preventive role to ensure that machine guarding is properly maintained and not dismantled for convenience’s sake. The second reason involves workers undertaking risky or unsafe actions. Some do so unknowingly as they react by instinct to try to retrieve something that dropped or to clear some chokes. While doing so, the workers do not realise these actions are actually unsafe. Regardless, such injuries are preventable. Workers not only need to be trained to operate the machine safely, but they also need to be trained on how to react safely to unexpected situations.
6. Food Manufacturing is a growing sector. Manufacturers like you introduce Singapore’s brand of quality and safe food products to the world, and we should also add the dimension that they are produced safely. Therefore, I encourage the sector to strive for zero amputations and injuries. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also befitting to the brand name of Singapore.
Promoting Technology-Enabled WSH
7. One way that we can prevent accidents is to incorporate technology into work operations. This includes the installation of sensors, which stops the machine when it detects that the safety door is opened, or when the safety guard is removed. Where possible, we could also automate processes to minimise the risk of human intervention and subsequently, potential injuries. They both go hand in hand.
8. Earlier this year, I visited Thong Siek Food Industry Pte Ltd. I saw first-hand how the company had leveraged technology to improve their work practices and reduce the risk of hand and finger injuries and amputations. For example, Thong Siek has an automated mincer machine and automated packing machine, meaning there is no need for workers to interact with potential hazards like moving blades and heavy machinery. Thong Siek has taken the right approach to invest in automation that not only improves productivity, but also looks after the safety and health of workers. This is what ownership is all about.
Behavioural Observation & Intervention
9. In addition, we can also foster Workplace Safety and Health ownership by influencing behaviours and creating a ripple effect. Whenever we observe unsafe behaviour, we should actively intervene so that we can create a broader company culture that takes Workplace Safety and Health seriously.
10. I am pleased to announce the launch of the Behavioural Observation and Intervention video today. The video, which features Cameron Singapore Pte Ltd, Falkcon Interior Pte Ltd, and Thong Siek Industry Pte Ltd, showcases how these companies promote safe and healthy work behaviours. It serves as a reminder that everyone, from the top management down to every last worker, should look out for one another’s safety and health. The video will be available on the WSH Council’s website, and I highly encourage everyone to watch and share it.
11. Once again, I thank you for being present at today’s launch of the Safe Hands Campaign 2022. Let’s work hand in hand to take care of our workers’ safety and health. May you have a very fruitful session ahead.