25 Mar 2021
WELCOME ADDRESS BY SMF PRESIDENT, MR DOUGLAS FOO AT THE “SAFE HANDS CAMPAIGN” ON 25 MARCH 2021
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad;
Representatives of the Workplace Safety and Health Council;
Members of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation;
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. A very good afternoon. In my capacity as the President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, I am indeed heartened that this is the second year running that the Workplace Safety and Health Council is collaborating with the SMF for the Safe Hands Campaign.
2. This important national campaign has also been brought into the virtual space for the second time in two years. Last year, the Safe Hands Campaign was launched during the circuit breaker period. Over the course of nearly a year, Singaporeans and people worldwide have been adapting daily routines to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Today, while it is indeed regretful that we are still unable to meet face-to-face, I believe that to most, it has already become a norm to host and attend events online.
3. Even as we work to prevent the virus from spreading, upholding workplace safety and health remains a paramount concern. In fact, perhaps even more of a concern than before, as what we used to understand as the workplace, may now no longer apply. The workplace and the residence has become less differentiated as people work from home.
4. Yet, for those who are unable to work from home due to the nature of their work, the launch of this Safe Hands Campaign is timely, to remind ourselves that finger and hand injuries are an ever present risk that we constantly have to take careful measures to negate.
5. It is trite that accidents from machine-related incidents could be due to poor machine maintenance, unauthorised operations of machines and inadequate training of workers. Every accident is one too many, and while it may not be fatal, an injury to the hand could possibly spell the end of one’s livelihood and bring immeasurable pains to the worker and their loved ones.
6. As we encourage more of our companies to adopt digital technology towards Industry 4.0, perhaps one way we can improve workplace safety and health is to make use of such technology.
7. For example, one of our SMF members, Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory Pte Ltd, has used technology to replace manual tasks to protect their workers from injuries. In the past, workers had to crush sugar manually with hammers. This exposed the workers’ hands to a big risk of injury. Now, with technology, workers only need to load the conveyor belt that will carry the sugar to a mechanical crusher. The conveyor belt places workers at a distance from the crusher, eliminating the risk of their hands and fingers being crushed.
8. One may think that the crusher presents a risk in itself. However, while not totally infallible, new technology means that machines now have safety features incorporated into their system.
9. One example of equipment with such safety features are “cobots”. Essentially, cobots are robots intended for direct human-robot interaction within a shared space, or where humans and robots are in close proximity. As cobots are designed to operate safely around humans, safety features like safety-rated monitored stops are built in, so that the machine stops when a human enters its collaborative workspace.
10. The above are just some examples of technology that companies can adopt to promote “safer hands”. I understand that today, 3M will also showcase how it uses various technologies to eliminate the risk of injury to hand and fingers.
11. In addition, quite apart from just relying on technology, the human mindset is what trumps any other precautionary measure. In this regard, 3M also motivates its staff to take ownership of workplace safety and health. With such a mindset, staff develop innovative solutions designed to reduce accidents. We hope such examples will inspire more companies to review how the use of technology can better protect their workers.
12. The SMF has always been encouraging its members to embrace technology through a plethora of services which the SMF provides in collaboration with government agencies and organisations. Members are also encouraged to tap on grants provided by Enterprise Singapore, such as the Enterprise Development Grant and the Productivity Solutions Grant, to adopt technology within work processes through the SME Centres at SMF.
13. As I shared above, as our workplace gradually changes, different types of risks such as mental well-being and social issues are now added to the danger zone. Accordingly, I would like to take this opportunity to make a clarion call for more trade associations and chambers to join in and champion the importance of workplace safety.
14. For example, since 2019, the SMF has been featuring articles produced by the WSH Council in our quarterly publication – the SMF Connect – to highlight various manufacturing risks and how to prevent them. Through the SMF’s Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Function Committee, the SMF has been the organiser of the annual WSH (Innovation) Awards. This award recognises exemplary manufacturing companies and supervisors in ensuring safety and health in the workplaces through innovative means.
15. The SMF also organised a webinar on safe management measures in workplaces in September 2020, to update members on the requirements of a safe and healthy workplace. As an avid bizSAFE Partner, the SMF will continue to work with the WSH Council through organising bizSAFE workshops for our members, and looking at how we may uplift and improve WSH standards in the manufacturing community.
16. In conclusion, as more raise their hands, pun intended, more can be done for workplace safety and health as well as Safe Hands. We have been living with the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now. It has inevitably changed our daily routines and work processes. Therefore, let us continue to embrace technology and innovation while actively seeking to protect one another from any workplace injury and ill health.
17. Thank you.