29 Jul 2021
Opening Remarks by Dr Tan See Leng,
Minister for Manpower
at the Workplace Safety and Health Awards and
bizSAFE Awards 2021
on Thursday, 29 July 2021, 9.30am
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower,
Mr John Ng, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Members of the WSH Council,
Tripartite partners, award recipients,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
1. Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to attend this year’s WSH Awards and bizSAFE Awards ceremony. Let me extend my heartiest congratulations to each and every award recipient.
Sustaining WSH During Challenging Times
2. Over the past 18 months, our fight against COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of protecting our workers’ health at the workplace. Our workers are valuable partners and enablers for businesses’ commercial success. For businesses to remain operational and successful, it is vital that we care for our workers.
3. To prevent workplaces from becoming COVID transmission hotspots, I strongly urge all employers to uphold proper Safe Management Measures (SMMs). This includes allowing employees who are able to work from home to do so, so that we can limit and minimise interactions at the workplaces.
4. At the same time, we cannot afford to neglect Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) amid the pandemic. It is not enough to protect our workers from the virus, but yet expose them to workplace accidents. Our WSH Award recipients have shown that with proper management of systems and resources, companies can uphold both WSH and SMM to protect our workers’ safety and health.
5. Employees too, have a responsibility to abide by WSH and SMM processes. Please do your part by looking out for yourself as well as your colleagues. In doing so, we can safeguard our lives and our livelihoods.
6. The pandemic has also taught us that an important corporate skillset for both employers and employees is ‘Risk Management’. It is the process of identifying, evaluating, and controlling risks at the workplace – whether it be from Covid-19 or workplace accidents. Before embarking on a project or a task, we should always ask ourselves: What are the risks involved? How likely are they to happen, and how seriously can they impact safety and health? Then, we have to mitigate these risks, while constantly monitoring and updating our control measures, based on changing circumstances. Covid-19 has compelled all businesses to sharpen their risk management abilities. Risk management instincts and thought processes apply equally to accident prevention as well.
Celebrating the Best
7. Today’s Awards honours companies and individuals that have done well in risk management, amidst COVID-19. I am glad to share with you three examples of our Award winners with outstanding WSH practices.
Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (PCS) – WSH Performance (Excellence) Award
8. Firstly, we have the Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (PCS) Private Limited. PCS is no stranger to the WSH Awards. Since 2008, PCS had been steadily attaining the WSH Performance Award, displaying consistent efforts and perseverance in improving their safety track record over the years. They empower all employees and contractors, at any level, to speak up, to intervene and stop unsafe acts without fear of repercussion.
9. Recognising the importance of their employees’ mental well-being, particularly during the pandemic, PCS has introduced an Employee Assistance Programme. It provides confidential third-party professional support and counselling to employees facing mental strain, whether from work or outside of work. Today, PCS once again stands proud in clinching the WSH Performance (Excellence) award.
Mr Chinnaiah Prabhu from RCY Pte Ltd. – bizSAFE Champion Award
10. An example of an individual Award winner is Mr Chinnaiah Prabhu, an Assistant Safety Manager from RCY Pte Ltd.
11. In the course of Chinnaiah’s work, he realised the language-barriers between his colleagues of different nationalities. As such, he started Safety Libraries in his company to provide spaces for his fellow workers to easily access WSH materials, such as the WSH Council’s guidelines and publications, all in their native languages. This library helps his non-English speaking colleagues improve their safety and health knowledge, while also providing a comfortable space for them to sit down, unwind, and read.
12. It is indeed inspiring and heart-warming to hear how Chinnaiah goes the extra mile to not only take care of his fellow workers’ safety but also their mental well-being, by providing a recharge space. He is a very deserving winner of the bizSAFE Champion Award.
JC Decaux Singapore Pte Ltd – bizSAFE Exemplary Award
13. Next, we have JC Decaux Singapore Pte Ltd, who will be receiving the bizSAFE Exemplary Award. They are the first company from the advertising industry to receive such an award, compared to the usual recipients from sectors such as construction, marine, and manufacturing.
14. JCDecaux adopts a social risk assessment policy, which aims to understand its employees’ psychological state. It focuses on staff well-being, addressing issues such as long working hours, inadequate rest, bullying, and discrimination. Additionally, JCDecaux provides training to its staff to make them more aware of potential safety and health risks at work. Given current work-from-home arrangements, topics range from ergonomics and good sitting posture, to noise-induced hearing loss due to excessive volume settings for headsets and earpieces. Well done, JCDecaux!
More Needs to be Done
15. The Award recipients are testament to those who prioritise both SMMs and WSH. However, there are others whose safety priorities have shifted, resulting in workplace injuries and even fatalities. Sadly, we have not fared well this year. Just within the first half of 2021, there were 23 workplace fatalities, compared to 16 in the first half of 2020, and 17 in the first half of 2019.
16. I understand the struggle for business survival during these challenging times. But workplace injuries and fatalities can also be a great setback to business recovery and sustainability. Employers and employees both need to support one another, and take greater ownership of Workplace Safety and Health.
17. MOM and the WSH Council will do its part to support companies and workers as well. More measures will be introduced to re-focus attention on safety. My Ministry is reviewing the introduction of safety criteria to qualify for public sector construction projects. We have been in talks with the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) and the Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore (STAS) regarding this framework. They support the move, but have requested for more lead time for the industry to prepare for implementation. We have taken their views into account, and we will share more details at a later date.
Mental Well-being Award
18. Amongst the three award recipients which I cited earlier, a common factor beyond their commitment to prevent accidents is also their strong focus on mental well-being. COVID-19 has heightened the importance of mental well-being, given the blurring of work-life boundaries, social isolation, and uncertainty over job and business prospects.
19. To encourage more companies to follow in the footsteps of the three examples, a dedicated Workplace Mental Well-being Award will be introduced as part of the WSH Awards from next year onwards. This award will recognise companies and individuals who have done well in fostering mental resilience at the workplace. Details of eligibility criteria and application processes will be shared when the next round of WSH Awards applications open in early 2022.
Strive Towards WSH 2028
20. As we adapt to living with COVID-19, we must not lose sight of our WSH 2028 goals. We must continue to strive towards our goal of reducing and sustaining Singapore’s workplace fatal injury rate at below 1.0 per 100,000 workers, and to be a country renowned for best practices in WSH.
21. Today’s winners have shown us that it can be done. Let us be inspired by their achievements and not give up. Remember, please take time to take care of our safety and health, as well as those of our friends, our colleagues, and our loved ones.
22. Thank you.