26 Apr 2022

Welcome Remarks by Mr Silas Sng, 
Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, 
Ministry of Manpower, at 
SISO’s Webinar on MOM’s WSH Statistics, Case Studies and WSH (COVID-19 Safe Workplace) Regulations on Tuesday, 26 April 2021 at 2pm

Mr Niranjan Masurekar, President of the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers,

WSHOs and fellow colleagues in the WSH fraternity, 

Ladies and gentlemen.

1. Good afternoon and my appreciation to SISO for inviting me to this webinar. Today is a very significant day because after two years of fighting the pandemic, we are finally close to the finishing line as the country eased most of the safe management measures.  

Role of WSHOs and SMOs

2. So let me begin by expressing my deepest appreciation to all the WSHOs for the important role you played during the pandemic.  I know that many if not all of you took on the role of the Safe Management Officer, or SMO, to assist in implementing the evolving SMM at workplaces. 

3. You have kept faith with the government as we rolled out various SMMs, and while others were working from home, you were on the ground masked up to see to the workers adhering to the SMMs. I applaud all of you for rising to the occasion and taking on the augmented roles. Thank you for your understanding, resilience and dedication. We could not have reached this day without your contributions.

4. As WSHOs, we are used to addressing foreseeable risks emerging from the workplace or work process, but this pandemic has shown all of us clearly that we can no longer ignore public health risks that arise from beyond the workplace setting. Even as we move towards living with COVID-19, we will need to address infectious disease risks as part and parcel of WSH management. Yes it is more work, but it is also more opportunities and more importance placed on WSH.

5. As we move into endemic-living, we are making plans to see how we can sustain the capabilities we have built during this pandemic. First, over the past two years we have learned to conduct safe shutdown or restart, procedures to do cohorting and isolation, contact tracing, pivoting to remote working arranagement etc.  

6. When I was appointed as the Commissioner for WSH in 2019, I never thought that one day working from home would be a key safety control measure much less enforce it as a law. Today even though many of these SMM measures have already been retired, but the experience we have gained should be captured and institutionalised so that the workplace is better prepared for the next pandemic or even a localised outbreak.

7. We will continue to work closely with the industry and WSHOs to develop guidelines for workplace pandemic preparedness, and increase the synergy between public health considerations and WSH policies to combat infectious disease management in the workplace.

8. Second, many of you are appointed as SMOs but there are many more non-WSHOs who are also appointed as SMOs. Imagine the potential if these SMOs can be play a contributory role to advance WSH. In particular, Slips Trips and Falls which are our most common major and minor accidents which are hard to detect, can happen anywhere from the factory floor to the staircase, to meeting rooms and toilets etc. So if every company’s SMO can help to implement simple control measures and promote greater WSH awareness, we can potentially bring down the STF trends.  

9. But to do that I will again have to call upon the WSHOs to help train and impart your Kungfu to them. We will have to help build up their capability so that we can achieve our collective goals of Vision Zero.

Singapore’s WSH landscape and the 3Ms priorities

10. Talking about Vision Zero, let me move on to share more about our WSH performance last year. We had 37 fatalities last year, a decrease from 39 cases in 2019; but this translated to a similar workplace fatality rate of 1.1 per 100,000 workers, due to the smaller workforce last year.

11. Major injuries in 2021 also declined slightly to 610 cases, from 629 in 2019. But the major injury rate increased to 18.5 injuries per 100,000 workers – up from 18.1 in 2019. The only saving grace is that we saw a reduction in minor injuries.

12. Let me share briefly with you what I call the “3Ms” priorities that I see we will need to pay attention to in these coming months.

13. First is Manpower. With the easing of border controls, we will likely see the influx of many inexperienced migrant workers coming in to fill the severe manpower shortage. We all know that the relatively new or less experienced workers are more prone to accidents and injuries, therefore I ask you to pay special attention to the “newbies”. 

14. Employers should take the time to ensure new workers receive sufficient training before starting work, and that they are assigned a suitable buddy to guide them in the initial weeks or months. Also, as the hotter months of April and May are now upon us, please also be mindful of the change in climate and ensure that they have sufficient rest and hydration.  Take Time to Take Care.

15. The second ‘M’ is Machinery. This is one of the focus areas in the recommendations from the Inquiry Committee for the accident at Stars Engineering Pte Ltd. In addition, machinery related accidents are the second highest accident types. So we will need to ensure that 1) machines are safe by design, 2) they are safely installed and commissioned, 3) its safety devices are maintained and not bypassed, and 4) they are maintained in a safe operating mode. The Ministry will be implementing the recommendations of the IC in the coming months so we will release more details when we are ready to implement.

16. There is one particular piece of machinery that has been creating a lot of headaches for us, that is the forklift. We had 6 fatalities that involved forklifts operation that went awry. It is also not uncommon to see keys left unattended while the forklifts are not in operation, and that the operators are not belted out. I have asked the Inspectorate to step up our enforcement stance and we will be taking stronger actions when we see such violations.

17. The third ‘M’ is Major injuries. As I’ve shared earlier, major injury rates have increased to pre-COVID levels and this could escalate into something more serious if left unchecked. We will need each of you to look deeper into what are the causes of the major accidents within your workplaces and take concrete steps to prevent a recurrence. If you have to err on the side caution, do more rather than do less. 

18. In two days’ time on 28 April, it is the “World Day For Safety And Health At Work”, an annual international campaign observed by the International Labour Organization to promote the prevention of workplace accidents and diseases. 

19. The WSH Council will be launching the annual National WSH Campaign that day as well, calling upon employers and workers to reinforce their ownership of WSH and establish a culture of care for one another. If you have yet to sign up, I encourage you to do so.

20. With that, I wish everyone a fruitful session and hope you will bring back some of the key lessons and recommendations that will be shared later and implement them at your workplaces. Thank you.