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Speech by Dr. Gan Siok Lin, Executive Director, Workplace Safety and Health Institute, Ministry of Manpower at World Day for Safety and Health at Work Event, 28 April 2015, 2.40 P.M. at ILO Building, Room XI, Geneva

SPEECH BY DR GAN SIOK LIN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH INSTITUTE, MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

AT WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK EVENT

28 APRIL 2015, 2.40 P.M. AT ILO BUILDING, ROOM XI, GENEVA

Ms Sandra Polaski,

Deputy Director-General for Policy, International Labour Organisation,

Fellow distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Afternoon

Introduction

It is my pleasure and honour to be part of this special event to commemorate SafeDay, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

2. Singapore is proud to celebrate SafeDay with ILO and tripartite partners. This year’s theme, “Join in building a culture of prevention of OSH” is an important call for action to all stakeholders to transform our mindsets and create a pervasive and progressive culture that places workers’ safety and health first.

 

3. ILO has estimated that 2.3 million workers die every year from occupational accidents and work-related diseases. In addition, many millions of workers suffer non-fatal injuries and illnesses. These are alarming figures and the resulting burden to the economy and society is enormous. In Singapore, we have estimated that in 2011, work-related injuries and ill health costs us $10.45 billion Singapore dollars, equivalent to 3.2% of our GDP. This is clearly unacceptable and we must therefore address this worrying situation. How each stakeholder can play their role has been beautifully summarized on ILO’s SafeDay interactive webpage.

 

4. Singapore recognises that good OSH standards and practices are important and the foundation for economic progress. Not only do they lead to a more productive and engaged workforce, but more importantly, they contribute to an improved quality of life for all.

 

Involvement from all stakeholders

5. At the government level, we must work towards providing a stable business environment by enacting effective regulations, and enforcing standards of OSH that meet people’s expectations. This will give investors greater confidence to invest in the region. Employers must foster a strong OSH culture among their staff. Not only does this make business sense, but more importantly, providing employees with a safe and healthy working environment is the right thing to do. Employees must look out for themselves and one another, and take the initiative to improve OSH standards.

 

6. Hence, it is critical for all stakeholders to understand the OSH challenges and see them not as hurdles to overcome, but as opportunities to improve safety standards and workers’ well-being.

 

Singapore’s commitment to WSH

7. Singapore places great importance to workplace safety and health. We formed the Workplace Safety and Health or WSH Council, which is a tripartite group which works to raise WSH standards throughout the economy. Singapore also set up the WSH Institute in 2011 to conduct research for evidence-based policies and solutions.

 

8. We signed the Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work in 2010 and ratified the ILO Convention 187 in 2012. We have a national strategy, developed by tripartite partners, called WSH 2018 to raise safety and health standards in our workplaces. Under WSH 2018, we committed to reduce our workplace fatality rate to below 1.8 per 100,000 employees by 2018. I am pleased to share that we reduced our workplace fatality rate from 4.9 in 2004 to 1.8 per 100,000 employees last year, made possible through the collective efforts of our tripartite partners.

 

9. While this is an important achievement to recognize, the disturbing fact remains that we continue to have increasing number of employees suffering injuries and ill health due to work. Hence we are not resting on our laurels and want to do more to further improve safety and health at the workplace.

 

Vision Zero Movement

10. In Singapore, we have been putting in place the building blocks to engender a Vision Zero mindset. We started introducing the concept of Vision Zero a few years back and we have been asked if Vision Zero is a target? An ideal? Or merely a Vision?

 

11. For us, Vision Zero is about individuals adopting a mindset that all injuries and ill-health arising from work are preventable. Hence, Vision Zero calls for a paradigm shift at every level of an organization, from one of fault finding, to one that focuses on finding solutions to prevent injuries and ill-health. This can only be achieved with every stakeholder’s commitment and cooperation. Let me share a few initiatives that Singapore has recently developed as we continue to build a prevention culture.

 

CultureSAFE Program

12. The WSH Council developed the CultureSAFE initiative to aid companies to move from a reactive, “fix-it-and-repair” mentality to one which is proactive and preventative. With this, they will be progressive companies which do not merely comply with the laws but have a sustainable pervasive WSH culture.

 

Total Workplace Safety and Health

13. We have also introduced Total Workplace Safety and Health (Total WSH) which is an integrated approach to manage safety, health and wellbeing in the workplace. This approach recognizes the inter-relationship between work, safety and personal health. It requires the demonstration of personal leadership and ownership by all levels within the organization, and understanding of the benefits from good management of workplace and personal health risks. For employees, they will enjoy enhanced work ability, improved personal health and well-being. For employers, they will benefit from being recognized as an employer of choice, attracting and retaining engaged and productive employees. We have piloted Total WSH in Natsteel, an iron and steel mill in Singapore, and the results are very encouraging.

 

Enhanced risk management

14. Another initiative which Singapore has embarked on is to further improve risk management capabilities within the industry. Here, efforts are made to get companies to always consider measures to reduce risks at source, to ensure risk management is effectively implemented on the ground and to adopt a holistic approach by considering personal health factors. For small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs, WSH Council has a very successful risk management competency-building initiative called bizSAFE which now has about 20,000 companies on board. Recently, WSH Council introduced a START guide to reach out to other SMEs. This is a simple step-by-step guide to start SMEs on their WSH journey and in particular, implementation of risk management.

 

Active Regionally

15. Singapore is also active regionally in OSH through the Association for Southeast Asia Nations OSH Network or ASEAN-OSHNET. ASEAN-OSHNET was officially formed in 2000 as a network to foster a safe and healthy working environment, so as to bring about a productive competitive workforce in ASEAN. It meets annually and had met in Bangkok, Thailand last week.

 

16. In 2006, OSH was added as a priority area in the ASEAN Labour Minister’s work programme, giving ASEAN-OSHNET a larger role to play. ASEAN-OSHNET developed a Plan of Actions to build up national OSH frameworks, focusing on raising the profile of OSH in the region and putting in place tools for benchmarking Member States’ OSH practices against global best practices.

 

17. To date, 3 ASEAN member states have ratified ILO Convention 187, 2 others have declared their intention to ratify while the rest of the ASEAN member states are looking into it. Over the years, ASEAN-OSHNET has steadily influenced key stakeholders and contributed to the improvement of OSH standards within the ASEAN region.

 

18. In addition, in recognition of the rapidly shifting workplace landscape which would bring about new WSH risks, WSH Institute launched its risk observatory last month on 11 March, called Observatory for WSH Landscape or OWL. OWL will serve to observe, analyse and communicate changes in the workforce, workplace and working life - to researchers, policy makers and industries in Singapore and Asia.

 

Conclusion

19. SafeDay is an important and appropriate occasion to reflect on the importance of OSH. It is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to this cause - to raise OSH standards. Annually, Singapore has been supporting, by launching our annual National WSH Campaign, which marks the start of new year-long activities to reach out to the community.

 

20. Singapore will be hosting the next World Congress on Safety and Health at Work from 3-6 September in 2017. Let us make the World Congress in 2017 an occasion to celebrate the progress that has been made in OSH globally. Together, we can make a difference through a preventative mindset, a strong belief and taking concrete actions collectively.

 

21. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in Singapore at the 2017 World Congress.

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