Speech by BG (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State (Manpower and National Development), At the WSH Awards 2011, 27 July 2011
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Members of the WSH Council and Committees,
WSH Award 2011 winners,
Industry partners and supporters,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. It is a real pleasure to be here with you for this year’s Workplace Safety and Health Awards.
2. This is the first time that I am attending this annual occasion to recognise companies and individuals who have achieved excellence in safeguarding the safety and health of our workers. I am truly encouraged to see so many winners this year. As winners, you have shown that you are putting the safety of your employees first. I thank you for supporting our Ministry in our efforts to keep workplaces safe.
3. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of protecting the lives of those we work with and the roles all of you play everyday. Even as companies strive to achieve commercial success, safety must always be our number one concern. Successful companies have found that commercial success together with employee safety and well-being are mutually complimentary.
WSH Award winners
4 Our winners tonight are successful companies that have achieved both business success and safety outcomes. Among all of you tonight, 178 exemplary companies or projects did not have any reportable incidents in the whole of 2010. This is almost three times the number last year. In total, this year’s winners clocked up more than 300 million man-hours without any reportable incidents, double of last year’s 150 million man-hours. Well-done!
5. Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore or PCS is one of them. Since 2007, PCS has retained its zero reportable incident record. Over the course of four years, PCS has achieved some 10 million man-hours without a single reportable incident and kept its 1,000 employees safe. The company is one of this year’s new winners for the Performance Excellence Award, an honour only given to companies that have achieved an incident-free record over at least a four-year period and have in place an excellent WSH management system with high scores on all counts.
6. This year’s Awards also saw an unprecedented 430 applications - the highest number in the history of the WSH Awards, and 16% more than last year. The judges had a tough time running through these applications to pick out 214 to be tonight’s award winners. What is interesting is that nearly 1 in 3 of the winners has never won an award before. It signals that more companies have started on their WSH journey and are reaping the benefits. They have contributed to the all-time low fatality rate of 2.2 per 100,000 employees in 2010. While we honour those who have excelled, we should not forget those who have not done well on the WSH front. So how can we sustain the progress going forward?
WSH Performance Jan to June 2011
7. In the first half of this year, work fatalities have inched slightly upwards. As at end June, there were 30 work fatalities, up from 25 in the same period last year. This means that every week, a family has had to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one due to a work incident. This is made worse when we know that these deaths could have been prevented if the right safety measures were in place and were followed. At times like this, we remember the significance of what Tzu Yang (WSHC Chairman) has highlighted in his speech earlier on the principle that guides our work – the value of “saving lives”. It is, therefore, imperative that we must continue to ensure that we continue to keep injuries down. The progress we have made in reducing work injuries can only be sustained if we continue to review our policies and programmes under our WSH 2018 strategic plan. Today let me highlight how two key initiatives will guide our efforts in these areas.
WSH Institute leads the way
8. As the leading institute for Knowledge and Innovation on the workplace safety and health front, the recently-formed WSH Institute will be the key enabler to determine if existing programmes under WSH 2018 are effective and relevant. Through intelligence sensing and evidence gathering, the Institute will help MOM and WSH Council to make better informed policies and programmes to meet industry needs and changes in the WSH landscape. It will also be at the forefront in researching new solutions and improving capabilities.
9. The Institute has just finalised the national WSH research agenda to focus efforts over the next 5 years, following public consultation. One of its first projects is to look into the critical role WSH plays in the success of world class organisations. While our award winners recognise the benefits of good practices in improving productivity, lowering insurance costs and raising worker morale, we need to convince other companies of the business advantages of WSH improvements and persuade them to do the same. Using case studies, statistical analysis, and business cases, the research study will link WSH to business productivity and profits in the local context. The findings will help demonstrate that good WSH makes business sense and equip MOM and the Council with insights to foster greater management interest and leadership.
10. The Institute will also focus on applied research by looking into current gaps in practices and providing evidence-based intervention programmes, such as redesigning work processes in various industries to enable work to be done more safely. This will enable the Institute to develop effective implementation methodologies to address these issues. The redesign of construction work processes to minimise hazards of falling from heights will be one immediate priority.
11. Another focal area for the Institute is in evaluating the effectiveness of WSH training and developing strategies to strengthen our training framework. As training providers and trainers play a key role in imparting WSH competency skills and knowledge, one key concern is the current lack of high quality training courses for existing trainers to keep them updated on the latest issues and challenges in WSH. The first initiative to improve this aspect is the jointly developed Train-the-Trainers (T3) programme by the WSH Institute and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The T3 programme targets training providers, trainers and curriculum developers. It is a continuous education programme to keep this group of stakeholders up-to-date with the latest developments and pedagogical methods.
Extension of WSH Act – engaging everyone and helping SMEs
12. Besides the Institute and its pioneering efforts, the WSH Council is constantly evolving its outreach and assistance programmes, especially to help SMEs. One key area is in making workplace safety and health relevant to everyone and getting them all on board. In September this year, we will achieve a key milestone in our national journey when the WSH is extended to all workplaces. Our Ministry started engaging workplaces as early as April last year with guidebooks, employer mailers, online resources, one-to-one advisory sessions, “flash mob” skit performances and national advertisements to alert stakeholders to everyday risks at work. During the National WSH Campaign launch event three months ago, we rolled out even more initiatives to both inform and educate employers and employees about the WSH Act. By now, you would have seen our TV Commercial that tells you to “Say NO to risks at work”, and the Council’s WSH Messengers who visit workplaces and help spot unsafe situations or acts.
13. To further help companies to progress on their journey, our Ministry had earlier set up a $70 million WSH 2018 Fund. To date, about one-third of this has been allocated for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to help them build capabilities. I am happy to announce today a new WSH Assist programme under this Fund. As its name suggests, consultants will be deployed right to the doorstep of SMEs to help them – firstly, to identify capability gaps, to help kickstart or improve WSH management as well as tap on the various capability building and funding programmes available. Some 6,000 SMEs are expected to benefit from the programme. Currently, we are piloting the programme and it will be ready to be rolled out to all SMEs early next year.
14. With that, I would like to assure you that our Ministry is fully committed to working closely with the industry on this journey towards WSH excellence. We will continue to provide the resources to support employers and workers to grow and develop their capabilities. I am confident that together, our efforts will raise standards and bring us closer to being one of the world’s best in WSH. Congratulations to all the winners and have a good evening ahead.