15 Jul 2021
Opening Address by Mr John Ng, Chairman of the WSH Council at the WSH Forum for Logistics and Transport Industry: Improving Warehouse Safety through Vision Zero on 15 July 2021, 9.00a.m.
Representatives of Container Depot and Logistics Association of Singapore, SAAA@Singapore, Singapore Logistics Association and Singapore Transport Association,
WSH Council Members,
Industry partners, Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1 Good morning, and a warm welcome to all of you. Thank you for taking time to join me at the WSH Forum for Logistics and Transport Industry, organised by the WSH Council.
WSH Performance of the Transportation and Storage Sector
2 Allow me to begin with an update on the WSH performance of the Transportation and Storage Sector. In the first quarter (1Q) of 2021, the sector continued to be one of the top three sectors with a high number of fatal and major injuries. Then just over the past few weeks, there were two workplace fatalities involving forklift operations.
3 Many of such injuries were caused by very basic safety lapses that could have been avoided. This is indeed a worrying and disturbing trend, signalling that more needs to be done to protect our workers’ safety and health.
Need for Greater WSH Ownership
4 As Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad pointed out during the bizSAFE Convention last month, this alarming trend illuminated the pressing need for employers to take greater WSH ownership through making sure that risk mitigation is implemented at the organisation level, and followed through by workers on the ground.
5 To help reinforce WSH ownership on the ground, the WSH Council partnered six industry associations and the unions last month in calling for a Safety Time-Out to their members.
6 One of the companies that responded to the STO callout was Yang Kee Logistics. The company conducted their STO at one of their warehouse worksites on 25 June, during which three members of the top management engaged 21 of their workers on-site, shared learnings from recent fatality cases, and reiterated good WSH practices. The company’s specialist WSH personnel was also consulted on key WSH risks and implemented steps to mitigate such risks. Throughout the week, the company also conducted STOs for the workers at the rest of their worksites.
7 Ownership can also be enhanced through companies’ focus on WSH-enabled technology. A good example is Schneider Electric, which developed a creative Virtual Reality (VR) system to train its workers on the safe operation of powered industrial trucks.
8 Schneider Electric realised the need to enhance the training standards for their workers after reviewing prior accidents involving these trucks. They observed that their operators’ knowledge retention of the safety aspects was lacking and there was poor operating behaviour. Since the implementation of VR training in the third quarter of 2019, the number of truck-related accidents has reduced. Last year saw a 50% reduction while this year has not recorded any accident to-date.
9 While employers are held accountable for their workers’ safety and health, workers themselves, must co-own WSH with their employers and take concrete steps to protect themselves. The National WSH Campaign 2021 urges workers, with support from their employers, to take scheduled breaks to rest and check for safety hazards.
10 In addition, I urge companies to keep in mind the Total WSH approach towards managing both the safety and health, including mental well-being, of their workers.
11 Today’s forum is themed “Improving Warehouse Safety through Vision Zero”. Warehousing plays an important role in logistics operations. Any interruption at the warehouses will slow down work processes and supply chain operations, crippling businesses.
12 A safe work environment and healthy workers are essential to every efficient warehouse. That said, there are many hazards in the warehouse environment that workers need to be aware of and know of their preventive measures. These hazards include being struck by moving vehicles or falling objects stored up high and falling from height.
13 Going back to the two tragic workplace accidents related to forklifts recently; in one case, a forklift operator was suspected to be crushed by toppled goods, while in the other, a worker fell from height to his death standing on a pallet lifted in a turret truck, a vehicle similar to a forklift. These accidents are saddening, and were due to improper safety and health practices that unfortunately resulted in the unnecessary loss of lives.
14 To help companies ensure safe forklift operations, the WSH Council recently produced a sticker and a pictogram poster to emphasise the importance of safe forklift operations. They are available for download on the WSH Council’s website, so do make use of these resources and share them with your workers. Management must make sure that their workers follow those basic rules of safe forklift operation. The WSH Council will also reach out to the wider L&T community to see how we can further raise safety standards for forklift operations.
15 At today’s forum, you will hear practical WSH solutions to improve our work environment and processes for better WSH outcomes. Such good practices can be easily implemented by all, from the large warehouse operators to the Small and Medium Enterprises.
Vision Zero Pledging
16 Ownership is also about having the right mindset, such as Vision Zero, which advocates that all injuries and ill health at work can be prevented, and that zero harm is possible.
17 I am pleased that the four main L&T trade associations, namely Container Depot and Logistics Association (Singapore), SAAA@Singapore, Singapore Logistics Association and Singapore Transport Association, have demonstrated ownership by coming together today to pledge their commitment to actively promote Vision Zero to all their members, so as to cultivate a pervasive Vision Zero mindset in their industry.
18 Some of the initiatives that the associations will implement include
(a) promoting the adoption of the bizSAFE programme to build WSH capability among all their members;
(b) organising at least one WSH-related event every year; and
(c) publishing at least one WSH article in their regular newsletter.
19 Let us witness this important moment for the L&T industry during the Vision Zero Pledging Ceremony later. All four associations are working towards getting their council member organisations onboard the Vision Zero Movement and will be embarking on their respective journeys soon. I urge companies to join the L&T industry’s Vision Zero Cluster, through the WSH Council’s website.
20 Also later at this forum, we will be recognising the companies with notable submissions for the WSH Innovation Award 2021 for the L&T Industry, organised by the Singapore Logistics Association. I am heartened to hear that the industry has continued to come up with innovative solutions to overcome WSH challenges, despite a difficult year in 2020 due to COVID-19.
21 In conclusion, workers are the most valuable resource in every organisation, and it makes good business sense to keep them safe and healthy. Once again, I urge everyone to take concrete steps towards greater WSH ownership, so that we can achieve our collective vision of safe workplaces and a healthy workforce.
22 Thank you.