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Speech by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower at the WSH Awards 2015

SPEECH BY MR LIM SWEE SAY, MINISTER FOR MANPOWER

AT THE WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH AWARDS 2015

ON WEDNESDAY 29 JULY 2015, 6.00 PM

AT RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA


Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower,

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Members of the WSH Council and Committees,

WSH Awards 2015 recipients,

Industry partners and supporters,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to join you this evening to recognise the individuals and companies with outstanding performance in Workplace Safety and Health in 2014.

Raising the Bar 

2          When the Workplace Safety & Health (WSH) Awards[1] was first organised in 2006, our workplace fatality rate was 3.1 per 100,000 employed persons. We introduced a new WSH framework at that time to shift focus from mere compliance to a mindset of eliminating risks. This mindset shift could not be achieved just through regulation and enforcement. We needed to also recognise companies that have done well, showcase their practices and spur others to higher standards. The WSH Awards was launched and started modestly with one category and 130 recipients.

3          Nine years on, our workplace fatality rate has dropped, to 1.8 per 100,000 employed persons. This is a result of strong tripartite partnership among workers, employers and government. With better performance in health and safety, the number of Award recipients has increased despite more stringent criteria. For example, companies previously needed to clock 1 million accident-free man hours to qualify for the Performance Awards. Now, the bar has been raised to 1.5 million man hours. We have also included an “X factor” in the criteria to assess if the WSH mindset is rooted widely in the company and how it integrates WSH into its operations.

4          We have also introduced new Award categories to acknowledge the role of developers, supervisors and safety officers in achieving good WSH outcomes. Tonight, 191 recipients will receive six categories of Awards. Collectively, they have ensured more than 84,000 of their workers go home safely every night last year. I congratulate all of them. This improvement in commitment to WSH is possible because of the leadership of the WSH Council, the WSH Institute Governing Board and all WSH Council industry committees. I thank you all.  

5          We have improved but we are not contented with our current state. If I draw a parallel to sports, the progress we have made since 2006 is akin to moving from winning in the SEA Games standard to the Asian Games standard. Having reached the Asian Games standard, we should now aim to win in the Olympics standard. We can do better than 1.8 workplace fatalities per 100,000 employed persons.

Innovation is Key to Vision Zero

6          The way to achieve this is through the Vision Zero movement. Vision Zero is not just another slogan – it’s about getting everyone to focus on prevention as a way of life. It is a recognition that “every life lost could have been saved”. A key to Vision Zero is innovation. If we can innovate to remove risks right from the start, then there will be fewer lives injured or lost down the road.  

7          That’s why I am particularly pleased that we will be recognising seven companies for their innovative approaches in WSH through the WSH Innovation Award. These companies have demonstrated how we can make all jobs easier, safer and smarter (or ESS). For example, instead of using stand-up and table top scanners to scan more than 10,000 uniforms individually, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) equipped their workers with Ultra High Frequency (UHF)-RFID handheld scanners that were more sensitive and tagged all uniforms. The work of their wardrobe team is now not only easier but ergonomically less risky due to the repetitive nature of work which will be reduced.  

8          Takenaka Corporation is another good example. To make working at heights safer and more productive, it designed a mobile hanging platform system which can travel on tracks at height. This removes the need to use mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) which may collide in tight spaces. With this innovation, Takenaka achieved a zero accident rate at its project site and reported a 60% increase in productivity.  

9          I hope more companies can develop innovative solutions to make all jobs easier, safer and smarter. The WSH Institute can be your partner to do this. For example, WSH Institute worked with the construction sector through a solutioning session[2] to identify the factors behind the spate of formwork-related fatalities in January 2014. Six recommendations were implemented to improve stakeholder competency, communication, role clarity and resource management. This reduced the number of formwork-related incidents in 2014. WSH Institute will initiate more solutioning sessions with the industry to understand, co-discover and co-develop solutions for WSH challenges faced. I encourage you to take up this opportunity.

Being Worker-Centric in Compensation & Injury Management

10In the unfortunate event of an accident despite our best efforts, we must take care of our injured workers. Today, they receive support under the Work Injury Compensation (WIC) Act, which provides a low-cost and quick avenue to receive compensation. To ensure that payouts remain adequate, we will increase the compensation limits for death and permanent incapacity by about 20% from 1st January 2016. The maximum amount of medical expenses claimable will also be raised from $30,000 to $36,000[3]. The last time we made such an adjustment was in 2012. It is about time we keep up with wage increases and inflation in medical costs.

11        Other than compensation, it is important that we facilitate early return to work by the injured worker.  This not only provides better financial security to the worker, it also contributes positively to his physical and mental well-being. Research has shown that the longer the injured workers are absent from work, the lower the chances of them returning. If the absence is more than six months, only half will eventually return to work. If the absence is more than 12 months, then fewer than 20% return to work. Hence, we will now allow expenses that facilitate return to work to be claimable under the WIC Act. For example, injured workers can engage occupational therapists to assess their workplaces and make recommendations to their employers. Claims can also be made to appoint a case manager to coordinate the arrangement amongst employers, workers and healthcare professionals to facilitate early return to work.  

Conclusion

12        As tripartite partners, we must look after our workers well. The theme of WSH Council’s annual report is about making workers’ dreams come true. We can make Vision Zero a reality too. Reducing the workplace fatality rate to 1.8 was a challenge but we did it. I am confident that with your commitment to Vision Zero, we will make our workplaces safe and healthy for everyone, and make Singapore a country renowned for best practices in WSH. Thank you.



[1] For more information on the WSH Awards, refer to Annex A.

[2] Refer to Annex B for more details on WSH Institute Solutioning Suite.

[3] Refer to Annex C for more details on the changes to the WIC Act.

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