23 Jul 2021
Opening Address by Ms Aileen Tan,
Co-Chairperson of the Workplace Safety and Health Council (Facilities Management) Committee at the
Workplace Safety and Health & Slips, Trips and Falls Prevention Webinar for Town Councils on
Friday, 23 July 2021, 2:30pm
Mr Daniel T’ng, Co-Chairperson, WSH Council (Facilities Management) Committee,
Industry partners and supporters,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1. Welcome! And thank you for taking the time to attend this Town Council engagement webinar. We had to postpone this engagement session last year due to COVID-19, but I am glad that we are able to convene the session this year and that everyone is able to participate safely online.
Town Councils play an important role
2. Town Councils play an important role in township management and are crucial in upholding workplace safety and health (WSH) standards in the public residential domain.
3. They have an essential role in managing our estates and are vital in maintaining our social fabric and cohesiveness within the community. They keep our estates clean, which helps to make our home environment pleasant and liveable. In addition, they maintain the common properties which include cyclical repairs, servicing and maintenance of buildings and its facilities, horticultural works, and conservancy and cleaning works.
4. Due to the wide scope of works that Town Councils undertake, workers involved will inevitably be exposed to WSH risks, such as slips, trips and falls, falling from height, or being struck by objects, just to name a few. Hence it is important that a robust risk management system is in place and continuously reviewed, so that workers and contractors can work safely.
STFs are a significant contributor to non-fatal workplace injuries
5. Slips, trips and falls, or STFs, may sound minor or even trivial, but it can cause fractures and head injuries, and in severe cases, even lead to deaths.
6. STFs were the top cause of non-fatal workplace injuries nationally, accounting for about one-third of all workplace injuries. For the Cleaning and Landscape Maintenance industry, STFs were also the top cause of injuries in recent years. And when many other injury types declined or held steady for the industry from 2019 to 2020, it is worrying to note that there was a 13% increase in STF injuries in the Cleaning and Landscape Maintenance industry.
7. It is therefore important that we educate our conservancy workers on the STF hazards they face on the ground and how they can prevent themselves from getting injured.
Town Councils taking ownership to keep workers safe and healthy
8. I am heartened that many Town Councils have taken steps to implement safety measures, improve working conditions and introduce technology to complement the work done by the conservancy workers.
9. Several Town Councils took the lead to organise safety and health-related events to raise WSH awareness, and many have also committed to set aside designated rest areas for their workers to take breaks. Others have adopted smart technologies and robotics to assist their workers in performing their duties. I commend the Town Councils for such efforts and encourage the rest who are not yet onboard to do likewise for the safety and health of their workers.
10. Let me share with you an example. In line with the move towards clean energy, we are seeing an increasing number of solar panels being installed at the roof tops of residential developments. These activities present many WSH challenges to the installers working at height. A number of the older roof tops were built without fall prevention features, like parapets or guardrails. They may have essential service fittings there as well, such as sanitary and drainage piping and electrical conduits. Such installations put the workers at risk of STFs and even falling from height, whenever they need to access and carry out works at roof tops.
11. We are pleased to note that the Housing and Development Board and all Town Councils came together to implement a plan to install safety railings at the roof tops of blocks where there is low, or no parapet walls. This initiative will definitely improve the safety for those working at the roof tops and are currently being progressively rolled out by all Town Councils.
12. I commend and urge the Town Councils to continue the good work and promulgate good WSH practices to their contractors and vendors.
WSH Council supports the Town Councils and their workers in managing WSH
13. The WSH Council will continue to support the Town Councils in keeping every worker safe and healthy. We launched the STF Campaign last month to increase awareness of STFs and to encourage companies and workers to make an “STF Resolution”. In doing so, these companies commit to:
• Take Time to Check on areas of improvement to prevent STFs;
• Take Time to Clean and do regular housekeeping; and
• Take Time to Share STF messages with employees regularly and encourage reporting of STF hazards.
14. If you have not done so, I urge the Town Councils to make an STF Resolution to ensure the safety and health of your workers.
15. Another area which the WSH Council is working on is training for workers. In knowing what the WSH risks are, workers then need to be equipped with knowledge on how to reduce or remove them entirely. We are working with the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners to include a mandatory WSH training module for cleaners under the Progressive Wage Model. Such training will improve safety awareness and knowledge among workers in the cleaning industry. I am glad to share that this mandatory WSH training requirement will take effect from next year.
16. Before I conclude, I am sure you have read that there has been a spate of nine workplace fatalities in the last two months. The WSH Council and six industry associations issued a call for companies to conduct a Safety Time-Out, or STO, to review their WSH provisions and address any potential lapses to prevent further accidents from occurring.
17. I would like to take this opportunity to urge the Town Councils to conduct STOs at your workplaces, if you have not already. It can be as simple as meeting your workers to emphasise the safety procedures they have to follow, and review if any modification is needed.
18. Together, we can prevent all accidents and ill-health so that each day, our workers can go home safe and healthy to their loved ones. I wish you all the best in your company’s WSH efforts and hope you enjoy the rest of the webinar.