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Speech at NTUC WSH Campaign 2023

Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad, SBS Transit Auditorium

A. Preamble

1. Mr Jeffrey Sim, Group CEO of SBS Transit; Mr Melvin Yong and Mr Desmond Choo, ASG of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Tripartite partners, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

2. Allow me to first express my appreciation to colleagues from SBS Transit, not just for hosting today’s event, but also working closely with our Tripartite partners to build a strong Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Culture.

B. Importance of Tripartite partners in reducing workplace injuries

3. All our Tripartite partners, which includes the Government, Employers, and Unions, have a shared responsibility to push for WSH improvements and ensuring good safety and health of our workers.

• In recognition of this, the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce or MAST was set up, comprising representatives from various stakeholders, in order to address WSH in a more holistic manner across industries.

4. MAST introduced a set of Safety Accountability, Focus and Empowerment, or SAFE measures, with the aim of instilling greater safety accountability and culture at the sector, company and individual worker levels.

(a) For companies, they will need to take on greater ownership and responsibility to implement these measures.

(b) For unions, they must recognise the pivotal role they play in advocating for WSH, and work closely with companies to help implement some of these measures.

• As part of the SAFE measures, CEs or Board Directors from higher risk industries are required to attend a half-day Top Executive WSH Programme. This ensures that at the CEO and board levels, everyone is clear on what needs to be done for the company because ultimately, they are responsible for putting in the resources. For example, if bosses don’t provide for equipment such as harnesses, or training to keep workers aware of risks, there is very little the workers can do and they will be working unsafely.

• Union leaders also play a key role in supporting WSH by working with workers on the ground to increase awareness on WSH, encouraging workers to raise any unsafe work to their employers, and sharing WSH concerns to the relevant authorities. And of course supporting this requirement is NTUC, where NTUC Learning Hub is one of the training providers for the programme to push for companies to attend WSH training. NTUC plays a big role to train everyone within the ecosystem through Learning Hub and other facilities.

• And of course, on the government’s part, we will make sure that regulations and everything else fall into place by coordinating with relevant agencies and regulatory bodies.

(c) Government, unions and employers have to work together to ensure safer and healthier workplaces for all our workers.

5. MAST will continue to drive new measures such as the introduction of more stringent safety requirement in Government tenders, and an online micro-learning to Safety Orientation Course. This is so as workers involved in high-risk industries may have been trained many years ago. Hence, we have to continually come up with refresher courses, get updated on the latest learnings and trends from industries, so that everyone is familiar with the current sets of risks amidst a changing environment.

C. Key statistics, and examples where MOM was able to take action due to feedback from a member of the public

6. With our concerted efforts, we have rolled out SAFE measures progressively since May.

• In the first half of this year, the annualised fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers improved to 0.8 from 1.3 in the second half of 2022. To get a sense, last year when we had to start the Heightened Safety Period (HSP) it was at 1.6 per 100,000 workers.

• We have managed to bring down the fatality rate to below 1.0 per 100,000 workers, an achievement that only four other countries in the world have achieved.

7. This year’s National WSH Campaign focuses on “Reporting Saves Lives”.

• We recognise the importance of building workplaces where workers feel safe to speak up, as they are our eyes and ears on the ground, the ones who are facing the risks directly.

• It is imperative that workers who spot any unsafe situations at their workplace inform their supervisor or the union of the issue.

8. I am glad that NTUC is supporting this stand with the launch of their WSH Campaign today, promoting a reporting culture where employees are empowered to speak up for safety.

9. I am also heartened that companies, including SBS Transit, have also played their part in such a reporting culture by promptly taking action to rectify any unsafe operations upon receipt of such reports.

10. Another key aspect of reporting would be feedback from members of the public to MOM.

• MOM has enhanced various channels to make reporting easy, including having a dedicated SnapSAFE page on MOM website.

• SnapSAFE is easy to use.

• One just uploads a photo and key in a brief description of the occurrence.

11. These reports have allowed us to act in a timely manner to stem any potential workplace incidents.

(a) Earlier this year, we received feedback from a member of public about an unsafe work at height being carried out.

• She noticed a worker not wearing safety harness while working at height and alerted the Ministry through SnapSAFE.

• Our WSH inspector conducted inspection on the same day and took action against the errant company.

(b) We hope actions like this will deter other companies from subjecting their workers to risks that can be avoided through safe practices.

(c) That member of public was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health for her public spiritedness.

• We want to encourage more positive behaviour like hers.

D. National Campaign Booster

12. There has been no let-up in the measures taken since we exited the heightened safety period in May.

• We have seen how the concerted efforts of MOM, tripartite partners, sector agencies, the industry and even members of public have helped to improve WSH.

• We must persevere and maintain our WSH vigilance.

13. We continue to encourage companies and workers to build an open culture, where workers feel safe to report any unsafe work practices, so that management and supervisors can take action to rectify, making the workplace a safer place to work in.

E. Reiterate support for NTUC campaign launch

14. WSH is a basic right for our workers.

• The launch of NTUC’s Campaign is a re-affirmation of our commitment towards WSH.

• It echoes the call of the National WSH campaign to report workplace safety concerns.

• I am grateful for NTUC’s continued support of our WSH efforts through this campaign.

F. Conclusion

15. Once again, I would like to thank our SBS Transit colleagues and Tripartite partners for working together with us to build a strong WSH Culture.

• I wish all of you a safe and healthy year ahead. Thank you.