01 Mar 2022
Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar bin Mohd Nor,
Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council
(National Work at Heights Safety Taskforce) at the
Work At Heights Symposium 2022 on
Tuesday, 1 March 2022 at 2pm
Mr John Ng, Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council,
Mr Quek Hong Peng, 2nd Vice President, Singapore Contractors Association Limited,
Mr Bernard Soh, President, Singapore Institution of Safety Officers,
Mr John Tan, President, Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore,
Mr Raymond Wat, Regional General Manager, International Powered Access Federation,
Mr Desmond Ong, President, Access Solution Industry Association,
Industry leaders, ladies and gentlemen.
1. Good afternoon and a very warm welcome to the Work at Heights Symposium 2022.
2. My thanks to all of you who are present here with us, as well as those who are joining us virtually. It’s great to be able to hold our annual symposium physically again. I am heartened to know that over 1,300 people registered for the event. While it is a hybrid, I hope we can have more and bigger physical events in the future.
3. COVID-19 has been with us since 2020 and these two years have taken a toll on many of us. We faced great challenges, such as manpower constraints, increased operating and material costs, tight project deadlines, and we had to comply with Safe Management Measures as well to ensure workers’ safety and health.
Falls From Height WSH performance
4. Despite the slowdown in activities during the past two years, our falls-from-height fatalities have remained high. From 2017 to 2020, we had 8 fatalities each year, while 2019 we had 7 fatalities. Last year there were also 8 fatalities, which accounted for 22% of overall workplace fatalities. You can learn more about our National WSH Statistics Report for 2021 when it is released next month.
WSH Council’s efforts to improve WAH safety
5. I acknowledge that a lot of effort have been done and will continue to be put in, and I am certain this will strengthen our resolve that more can and must be done to ensure our workers’ safety. The WSH Council (National Work at Heights Safety) Taskforce has dedicated their time and effort to raise work-at-height safety standards in the industry. Let me share with you some of our key achievements over the years:
6. First, it is vital for businesses throughout the value chain and its employees to be instilled with WSH ownership. Last year, we collaborated with industry bodies such as Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL), Singapore Institution of Safety Officer (SISO), Specialist Trade Alliance of Singapore (STAS), International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) and many others, to raise and sustain awareness for work-at-height safety awareness. My thanks to SCAL, SISO, STAS, and IPAF for instilling WSH ownership among your members.
7. We have also continuously engaged migrant workers. Since 2020, we have included a category in our annual “Safety Starts With Me” Competition for workers, where they can submit safety videos in their own native language. This is to encourage workers to share good work-at-height practices with their fellow countrymen, and also to help overcome language barriers and ease them into working safely in Singapore. Being safety advocates to their own peers is a great way to cultivate a sense of ownership among workers.
8. Second, is Technology. Work-at-height risks and hazards could be mitigated when employers, together with employees, embrace digital innovations and incorporate technology into their systems and processes. We have also seen how technology has played an important role in the last two years in improving productivity.
9. The Taskforce has showcased how some of these technology solutions could mitigate or even eliminate work-at-height risks at past Work at Height Symposiums and WSH related conferences and forums. We also worked with Institutes of Higher Learning such as ITE Central and Temasek Polytechnic to curate a series of work-at-height scenario training packages that could be adopted and adapted for industry to complement their work-at-height training.
10. Third is Workplace Health. We need our workers to not only be safe, but we also for them to be healthy. This is even more important when carrying out work-at-height activities, where their overall well-being and situational awareness needs to be at peak condition, so that they are capable of making the correct decisions.
11. To assist companies in these aspects, the WSH Council has supported them over the years through our Total WSH programme, which has expanded to include mental well-being as well. Last December, we launched our inaugural Workplace Mental Well-being Campaign. The Campaign aims to remind people to take time to take care of their mental well-being, as it can impact work performance and safety.
Focus Area for 2022
12. All these initiatives that I have just shared are aligned with our WSH 2028 vision; to have a healthy workforce in safe workplaces. As we persevere to reach our goal to reduce our workplace fatal injury rate to less than 1.0 per 100,000 workers, one of our key focus areas for 2022 is ladder safety.
13. Non-fatal fall injuries involving ladders have remained high over the years and is the top contributor for falls from height cases. To help the industry to work safely with ladders, the Work at Heights Taskforce will be working with industry stakeholders to build greater awareness on ladder safety. We have also worked with SCAL and Aedge Group to showcase some good ladders that conform to the latest Singapore Standard EN 131 for Ladders. For the benefit of our online audience, Aedge Group will also be providing some quick WSH tips on how to choose ladders and their safe use.
14. In conclusion, I hope today’s event will provide you with useful insights on working safely at height, and that the speakers today will inspire you to take the extra effort to improve and transform for better WSH standards at your workplace.
15. Let us remain vigilant, look out for one another and continue to maintain good safety practices. Safety is as its strongest if each and every one of us take collective and personal responsibility. I wish everyone a safe day, and safe weeks and months ahead as well.