Opening Address by Senior Minister of State, Mr Zaqy Mohamad at bizSAFE Convention 2023
Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Max Atria, Singapore Expo
Mr Vincent Phang, Deputy Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council,
Members of the WSH Council,
Chairmen and CEO of the SME Centres,
Tripartite partners, Award recipients,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to join you at the bizSAFE Convention 2023. Today’s event is a good opportunity to share two main messages.
a. First, there will be better support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve their workplace safety and health (WSH).
b. Second, good WSH standards are attainable by all companies, including SMEs.
Singapore’s WSH Performance
2. On Singapore’s WSH performance in 2023 so far, we are on track towards our WSH 2028 vision of a fatality rate of below 1.0 per 100,000 workers. This is an ambitious standard that has been achieved consistently by only four OECD countries, namely the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.
3. That said, even one fatality at work is one too many lives lost. Employers and corporate leaders need to take charge of WSH as a top business priority, and foster a culture of safety first throughout the company, down to the last worker.
Helping SMEs Build Their WSH Capabilities
4. Understandably, it is more challenging for SMEs to develop a strong WSH culture given constraints on manpower, time, and resources. In 2022 alone, SME employees accounted for about seven in ten fatal and major injuries. This is not surprising as SMEs employ about 70% of the workforce in Singapore. Improving the WSH culture among SMEs is thus fundamental to making workplaces safer and healthier.
5. To do so, the WSH Council has partnered industry associations with SME members, especially in the higher-risk industries, to share its SME-centric guides and resources. Prevention tips and WSH processes are presented in our four official languages, made more bite-sized, with user-friendly checklists. We have also simplified the SME START Guide in July, to help SMEs that are embarking on their WSH journey.
6. To support SMEs better, I am happy to share that the WSH Council and SME Centres will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today on their partnership to build SMEs’ WSH capabilities.
7. Under this MOU, the five SME Centres will facilitate the sharing of WSH-related education and resources to SMEs. To support the SME Centres’ efforts, the WSH Council will:
a. Offer training to the SME Centres’ Business Advisors, covering WSH legislation and programmes such as StartSAFE and WSH Technology funding;
b. Publicise SME Centres’ services and events through the Council’s network; and
c. Provide guidance materials, such as SME WSH Packs, to be disseminated through the SME Centres.
8. This will make guidance and support for WSH more readily available. I strongly encourage our SMEs to reach out to any of the five SME Centres and their satellite centres to improve WSH at their workplaces. This will not only help to protect the lives and livelihoods of workers, but it will also strengthen workers’ trust in their employers, reduce expenses in the long term, and build stronger reputation for companies.
Recognising Our bizSAFE Awards Recipients
9. Today, we are also presenting the bizSAFE Awards to companies with good WSH performances. About half of the 41 award recipients are SMEs, which goes to show that SMEs can also be exemplary in WSH.
10. One example is Austin Energy (Asia) Pte Ltd, a locally-grown SME. It is receiving two awards this year – the bizSAFE Enterprise Exemplary and WSH Tech Awards.
a. Austin Energy (Asia) achieved its bizSAFE Level Star status, the highest level of bizSAFE accreditation, in 2010, and has been diligently renewing its bizSAFE status with the WSH Council over the years.
b. The company’s focus in engaging its employees and building their trust has helped boost its retention rate. In turn, clients’ confidence in the SME grew,
leading to increased business opportunities. Its commitment to safety and health, evident through initiatives such as safety briefings and dialogues, as well as management walkabouts, has resulted in zero major injuries in recent years.
Leveraging Technology for a Safer Workplace
11. This year, we have introduced a new award category – the WSH Tech Award – to recognise bizSAFE companies that have adopted technology to enhance WSH.
12. One of the SME recipients of the WSH Tech Award, Chye Joo Construction Pte Ltd, harnessed technology to improve safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
a. What Chye Joo Construction did was to use a High Performance Stabiliser Control System in lorry loader operations. This system monitors the crane lifting capacity in real time, and stops the crane to prevent overloading or toppling.
b. Uninterrupted lorry loader operations have now become the norm. This not only eliminates downtime but also significantly enhances safety and operational efficiency.
c. Chye Joo Construction is among 118 approved applicants for the Stability Control System Grant (SCSG) initiated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The industry has responded positively, with close to 30% of the $4-million Grant taken up since its launch in end of March this year. I encourage more companies to tap on this Grant to install the Stability Control System (SCS) on your lorry cranes.
Inspiring a Culture of Safety and Shared Responsibility
13. There is a group of companies that have set exceptional standards in WSH. They are service buyers that influence existing and potential sub-contractors to also prioritise WSH – we call them our bizSAFE Partners.
14. One such company is SBS Transit Rail Pte Ltd, a recipient of the bizSAFE Partner Award. SBS Transit Rail has demonstrated exceptional commitment by promoting a unified and strong WSH culture among its 24 business partners, all of whom have achieved at least bizSAFE Level 3. The company ensures that it is not just themselves who are safe, but they also buy from partners who are safe.
a. SBS Transit Rail actively conducts assessments and inspections on their partners’ quality of work and compliance with WSH standards.
b. It also helps strengthen their partners’ WSH knowledge and skills by organising regular safety training and workshops, implementing a mentoring programme for their staff to guide their partners, and hosting forums on safety.
c. All these initiatives have contributed to a substantial 78% reduction in its partners’ injuries from 2018 to 2022. We can see how big a difference the initiatives have made. Thank you, SBS Transit Rail, for leading the way!
15. These are just three examples, but I would like to congratulate all our award recipients! You have shown us that good safety and health outcomes are achievable when you proactively embark on your bizSAFE journey.
16. From next year onwards, the WSH Council will be subsuming the bizSAFE Awards under the ambit of the bigger WSH Awards. This aims to also elevate SMEs and give them recognition at the national level.
17. Together, we can make a lasting impact on WSH, not only within our companies but also on a broader scale – across the nation and on the global stage. On this note, I wish all participants a fruitful convention ahead!