Opening Address at WSH Awards 2023
Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad, Resorts World Sentosa, Resorts World Ballroom
Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council,
Members of the WSH Council and WSH Council Committees,
Tripartite partners, Award recipients,
Industry partners and supporters,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening. I am happy to join you at today’s Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards ceremony this evening.
Recognising commitment to WSH in 2022
2. Today, we recognise companies and individuals that have been exemplary in WSH in 2022. The first 8 months of 2022 were challenging, with an annualised fatality rate of 1.5 per 100,000 workers. But in the later months of 2022, when the Heightened Safety Period (or HSP) kicked in, it gave us confidence that incident prevention is attainable, with an annualised fatality rate of 0.8 per 100,000 – close to half what it was pre-HSP.
3. Tonight is an opportunity for companies that have done well to celebrate and thank their teams – all of you – for upholding strong WSH standards. As mentioned by Mr Abu Bakar just now, we have the highest turnout – 164 tables – ever for any WSH Awards ceremony, so thank you for the support everyone.
4. It is crucial that we remain vigilant in WSH so that our workers can stay safe and we remain on track towards our WSH2028 target:
a. For the first half of 2023, the annualised fatality rate per 100,000 workers is about 0.8, and this is better than our WSH2028 target of below 1.0 per 100,000 workers. This is an achievement only 5 OECD countries have attained on a consistent basis, and we want to be among the best performers for the long-term. We have some way to go, but if we put our minds to it, HSP has shown that we can achieve this if we focus.
b. Notwithstanding this, our preliminary investigations into recent fatalities showed that they occurred as a result of inadequate control measures and negligence. I am concerned that companies may be becoming complacent again.
c. We have exited from the HSP, but we cannot take our eyes off the ball. To accomplish our mission of attaining our WSH2028 goals, the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce (MAST) has kept most of the HSP measures as permanent safeguards, and introduced new Safety Accountability, Focus and Empowerment or SAFE measures to strengthen WSH ownership at all levels.
Updates to SAFE Measures
5. Work on MAST’s SAFE measures are underway and you can expect the following developments:
a. MAST earlier announced that from June 2024, all construction sites with a project value equal to or above $5 million are required to have a video surveillance system (VSS) monitoring, for high-risk work activities. A public consultation is currently underway on a draft guide detailing the coverage of high-risk work activities, suitable mounting locations, and specifications, as well as operational considerations to take note of. I urge all of you to share your feedback on this draft before the guide is finalised and published in September.
b. CEO or Board Director of companies in the higher-risk Construction, Manufacturing, Transport & Storage, and Marine sectors are required to attend a half-day Top Executive WSH Programme by March 2024. This programme, currently available in-person, in the English language, will be rolled out in Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. There will also be a new e-learning version to be launched in September 2023. I urge company leaders to attend the programme before the requirement kicks in.
c. At the worker level, they should have continuous WSH training. To enable this, online micro-learning for Construction work permit holders will be available in 11 different languages as well.
6. These nearer-term SAFE measures, together with the HSP measures that have become permanent – such as higher composition fines, and requiring Chief Executives to personally account for incidents – mean greater scrutiny and consequences for those who are lax, but also more avenues to develop WSH capability, from the top executive to the worker level, for those who are committed to protecting the safety of our workers.
Companies have been WSH multipliers
7. Among our winners tonight, I would like to highlight the contribution of those companies I call “WSH multipliers”. They use their power as pay-masters to ensure that their partners and contractors also possess good WSH standards. This way, they support not just the safety and health of their own employees, but also employees of their contractors as well, therefore multiplying the benefit to a larger pool of workers.
a. Wood Singapore, our WSH Performance (Excellence) Award recipient, did just that. The company ensures that the sub-contractors whom they engage prioritise safety. Generally, in their pre-qualification evaluation for selecting sub-contractors, safety and other components collectively forms the shortlisting standards.
b. The safety track record, certifications and achievements, and safe work practices of shortlisted sub-contractors are subsequently assessed during the bidding stage via a technical evaluation. Shortlisted sub-contractors who possess at least a valid bizSAFE Level 3 certification will be prioritized to proceed to the next stage of the evaluation process.
c. I encourage more companies to introduce stringent safety requirements in their tender evaluation to align the interest of businesses to WSH, so that together, we can strengthen WSH ownership across the entire ecosystem. Thank you, Wood.
Upkeeping Best WSH practices
8. During the course of MOM’s inspections, while everyone usually thinks they is negative, we actually also found many companies with good WSH management systems. I thought we should highlight this today, as many companies really have good practices. However, companies can only achieve excellence in their WSH performance when they implement the plans in their management system.
9. Raffles Quay Asset Management (RQAM), a recipient of the WSH Performance (Gold) Award, is a firm believer of this. In their WSH management system, they implemented a Gap Analysis Checklist, incorporating measures spelt out in the Code of Practice on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ WSH Duties, or ACOP.
a. In ensuring adequate resource allocation for WSH, the company ensures reasonable timelines for project completion to prevent rushing. In addition, they prioritize WSH training and refresher courses to enhance worker skills and knowledge through their training matrix and learning portal.
b. In recognising workers’ efforts toward achieving good WSH performance, RQAM presents its own annual Good Performance Award to reward workers who have consistently demonstrated excellent safety performance. Since its inception in 2010, more than 100 workers and contractors have been the recipients of this award.
c. I urge all companies to refer to the recommended measures in the Code of Practice in your WSH management. Thank you very much for your hard work.
Launch of iOwnWSH
10. A common attribute amongst our award recipients today is their strong sense of WSH ownership, which resulted in their exemplary outcomes. They are self-motivated to improve their WSH, and in some cases, that of their contractors and business partners.
11. To help companies inculcate a strong sense of WSH ownership among their employees, MOM and the WSH Council have introduced iOwnWSH, a free online company-administered assessment tool for companies to understand their level of WSH ownership and get recommendations for improvement.
a. The iOwnWSH tool is based on a multi-year study by MOM’s WSH Institute and NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information to understand how individual, cultural, and organisational factors can affect organisational WSH Ownership in Singapore. It is administered via an online survey by employers to their management, supervisors, and workers, and is available in English, Chinese, Tamil and Bengali.
b. With the customised company report from the iOwnWSH assessment, companies can then identify the areas that require improvement, for example, low sense of psychological safety of their workers due to blame culture in the organisation. This will help them put in place appropriate interventions to improve WSH Ownership in the organisation.
12. We invited this year’s Awards applicants to try out iOwnWSH. One award winner, Sumitomo Chemical Engineering Singapore liked that the iOwnWSH report, with its use of pictograms, was simple and easy to understand. Participating SMEs also appreciated the tool’s function, which allowed employers to easily upload their employees’ information to invite them to participate. Companies who are keen to use iOwnWSH can refer to the WSH Council’s website for more information.
13. While we celebrate our WSH award winners today, we must continue to persevere and maintain our WSH vigilance. I urge all our award recipients to inspire your colleagues, workers, clients, partners, and contractors to play their part, and develop collective ownership to achieve our WSH2028 goals. Just as we celebrated Singapore’s birthday a few days ago pledging to move “Onward as One,” let us do the same for WSH and make Singapore one of the best countries in keeping our workers safe and healthy.
14. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all our award recipients. Thank you and have a pleasant evening.