16 Nov 2021
Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar bin Mohd Nor,
Deputy Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council
at the Construction WSH Leadership Dialogue 2021 on
Tuesday, 16 November 2021, 3:00pm
Mr Yam Ah Mee, Chairman, WSH Council’s Construction and Landscape Committee,
Industry leaders and fellow professionals,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1. Good afternoon. Let me extend a warm welcome to all of you to the Construction WSH Leadership Dialogue. For those who are joining us virtually from your home or office, thank you as well for taking the time off your busy schedule to attend this session.
2. The construction industry has been one of the worse-hit sectors since COVID-19 hit us two years ago. I really empathise with the industry. I know you face a serious shortage of manpower, drastic cost escalation, and pressure to hit project milestones quickly, all while managing worksite safety and health, Safe Management Measures, and also workers’ morale.
3. I am glad the industry has remained resilient; and I am confident, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and hope for better days ahead.
WSH performance for construction industry
4. Even as we deal with challenges, we cannot neglect safety and health. I would like to commend the construction industry for good progress over the years. The number of fatal injuries has dropped from a high of 34 in 2013, to 13 in 2019, and followed by 9 in 2020.
5. This year, however, the situation is back to pre-COVID levels. On one hand, it is heartening that it has not gone significantly worse given the severe challenges. But on the other hand, we still need to keep our eye on the WSH 2028 target of being one of the safest workplaces in the world, where we need and should do better.
6. I would like to acknowledge the strong efforts and support for WSH by many parties, who have achieved past progress, and are instrumental to continue and improve construction safety.
• First, let me thank the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union and Labour Movement, who has always been a strong advocate of workers’ well-being. This could be seen by their joint walk-abouts on site, led by the company management and engagement sessions with workers to promote and enhance WSH capabilities.
• Next, I want to commend the Trade Associations and Chambers like SCAL, STAS and REDAS, who have also demonstrated industry leadership by spearheading the organisation of sector-specific events, seminars and conferences. They use various ways and communication channels to reach out to their member companies and shared important WSH messages and initiated many calls-to-action.
This was evident earlier this year, when they partnered the WSH Council to call for a Safety Time-Out (STO), in response to the spate of nine workplace fatalities between 19 May and 22 June. We would like to commend the efforts of BHCC Construction Pte Ltd, who dedicated an entire day to conducting an STO for their work-at-height activities. The team carried out an onsite walk-about, inspecting key areas of concern such as risk assessment, work procedures, formwork activities and usage of ladders. This demonstrated the strong WSH culture imbued into the organisation’s leadership.
The WSH 2028 vision – leadership and ownership are key
7. Indeed, good safety and health performance starts at the very top. Leaders must first have good WSH ownership to WANT to do better to make their workplaces safe. They need to have strong capabilities and knowledge to set the right direction and establish practical WSH standards within the organisation.
8. Another example of strong leadership and WSH ownership is demonstrated by Jewel Changi Airport Development and Changi Airport Group from the Jewel Changi Airport project. The team made a deliberate decision to employ independent WSH consultants for the project so that WSH considerations were prioritised from the start of the project. WSH was consistently at top-of-mind throughout the project and as a result, they not only achieved zero fatalities and major injuries, but with minimal interruptions to airport operations.
9. Leadership and ownership are key tenets to a safe workplace and healthy workforce. This is why we have dedicated today’s dialogue session to discuss their importance and relevance to the industry. We are honoured to have an esteemed panel of industry leaders, who will provide further insights on this and on being resilient in the new normal. I hope you will enjoy the session and learn as much as you can, bringing back some useful tips to your organisation.
10. We are approaching the year-end festive period, where in the past, we typically experience a higher occurrence rate of accidents. I would like to remind all of us not to take workplace safety and health for granted. Let us remain vigilant, look out for one another and continue to maintain good safety practice.
11. Have a fruitful and insightful dialogue session and I wish everyone a safe day and months ahead. Thank you.