Addressing Futuristic Challenges to Total Workplace Safety and Health in Singapore

August 30, 201610:39 am
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The Singapore Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Conference attracted more than 1,000 local and international WSH experts, business leaders and government officials. Themed ‘Total WSH: The Future of Our Workplace’, the two-day conference focused on key areas such as changing trends and emerging issues at work, and how these would have an impact on workers and workplaces of the future.

This year-on-year increase in attendance has established the conference as the leading platform in the region for business networking and exchanging best WSH practices. Discussions on the importance of adopting Total WSH to tackle future WSH challenges and inculcating the mindset that all injuries and ill-health can be prevented emerged high on the conference agenda.

Navigating the future of workplaces

Emerging trends such as new technology, changing demographics and a multi-generation workforce are posing new safety and health challenges. Such trends will not only impact organisations’ productivity, but more importantly, the well-being of their workers. Organisations must therefore implement strategies to tackle these issues urgently.

Er Ho Siong Hin, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, Ministry of Manpower, Singapore, said, “To have an engaged and productive workforce, an enhanced protection for workers’ safety, health and well-being is a no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. Future workplace need to adapt to lean manpower economy and continue to have a productive workforce. This can be achieved through Total WSH.”

Associate Professor Chia Sin Eng, Vice Dean (Academic Affair), Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University Singapore, highlighted that, Total WSH requires a multi-disciplinary team and every team member has a role to play in implementing Total WSH successfully.

The key elements of implementing Total WSH were depicted through a skit performance in Symposium 4. Assoc Prof Chia, who was part of the skit, shared an example, “As WSH Officers who may not be familiar about risks posed by workers’ personal health, the company doctor will be the person to provide this input and to work with the WSH Officer, HR and senior management to develop policies and to conduct the health monitoring to ensure that the worker is suited his job.”

Seng Thiam Khoo, Managing Director, FedEx Express Singapore emphasised on the importance of communication and how it is integral to managing WSH issues. Khoo said, “Communication and engagement with staff is key. Staff needs to know that when an organisation implements WSH initiatives, it is done with their interest at heart.”

Emphasising the importance of Vision Zero

Speakers also highlighted adopting and embracing Vision Zero where all accidents and injuries are preventable and a belief that zero harm is possible. At the opening of the Conference, Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, said, “Vision Zero is a journey with no end. We have come a long way but there is still a lot more work to be done… to make our workplaces of tomorrow safer and healthier than today, for all workers and our people.”

Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say opened the Conference with a report on Singapore’s workplace safety and health performance over the past 10 years. He highlighted the need to work together to get Singapore back on track to achieve the WSH 2018 target of 1.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers. He also shared how we need to lay a firmer foundation to sustain improvement in workplace safety and health outcomes beyond 2018.

To this end, Minister Lim announced the three focus areas in WSH 2018 Plus plan. They are:

(a) Improving workplace safety and health standards in the construction sector

(b) Strengthening workplace safety and health competency in our workforce

(c) Building collective workplace safety and health ownership

Luca Fontana, Regional Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, Asia Pacific, Amec Foster Wheeler Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, elaborated on the company’s Beyond Zero culture, which encourages communication and voicing out Health, Safety, Security and the Environment concerns when witnessed.

Fontana said, “Everyone has a duty to challenge anyone and anything if they believe that safety is being compromised. I believe that work can be done without people getting hurt.”

Yeo Guat Kwang, Assistant Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and NTUC Director for WSH, explained how the Labour Movement’s collective efforts with its tripartite partners promotes WSH standards and best practices, and recognises individuals’ efforts and commitments.

The International Advisory Panel for Workplace Safety and Health provided a total of 9 recommendations, of which two were highlighted as priorities, they are:

  1. To improve the construction sector’s workplace safety and health performance through raising the competency of front-line supervisors. Supervisors play an important role in linking management and workers to communicate and implement safe work practices. They need to be equipped with the necessary skills to effectively address workplace safety and health issues on the ground. This can be done through enhancing the training curriculum for supervisors.
  2. Engaging insurers to play a bigger role in cultivating accident prevention. For example, insurance companies can set up a joint database of insured companies. This will help strengthen the risk profiling of insured companies. This way, companies will be motivated to keep their workers safe and healthy while lowering their insurance costs.

The above recommendations have been accepted to elevate Singapore’s workplace safety and health standards.

WSH Institute and NTU Establishes New Research Centre

The WSH Institute and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) during the conference. Under the MOU, both organisations are slated to set up the new NTU-WSH Institute Research Centre.

The Centre will focus on three key areas, namely developing communications to raise WSH awareness – data analytics and predictive methods to prevent work accidents and ill health, as well as highlighting WSH risks from new technologies. The signing of the MOU was witnessed by Minister of State for Manpower and Prime Minister’s Office, Sam Tan.

In the closing speech of the Conference, Mr Sam Tan, expressed his hope that all participants had gained valuable WSH knowledge from the conference, “Let us leave here today with the resolve to work with and help one another achieve greater success in workplace safety and health.”

In addition, 2017 will witness the hosting of the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work for the first time in Southeast Asia. The world’s largest international conference that promotes the importance of workplace safety and health, the World Congress is organised every three years by the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) institution of the host country.

The World Congress on Safety and Health at Work will be held from 3 to 6 September at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

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