08 Sep 2022
Keynote Address, Chairman of the WSH Council (Higher Education and Research) Working Group on Tuesday, 6 September, 1.30pm at Singapore Institute of Technology
1. Prof John Thong, Deputy President (Academic) & Provost, our academic colleagues, distinguished guests from the Workplace Safety and Health Council, fellow WSH professionals from the Institutes of Higher Learning and Research Institutes, Ladies and Gentlemen.
2. Firstly, I would like to thank the Singapore Institute of Technology, for hosting this year’s Forum for the WSHC (Higher Education and Research) Working Group, also known as HER WG for short. I am honoured to be here today.
3. Let me share with you who HER WG is and what we do. The HER WG was officially formed in 2015, but our preparation to establish the working group started earlier, around 2013.
4. Our primary goal is to raise Safety and Health standards in the higher education and research sectors by leveraging on the strengths of each institution.
a. We work together to gather insights on safety health challenges facing this sector.
b. We share best practices and experience to continuously strengthen WSH practices among our member institutions.
c. We tap into our collective wisdom and synergize our efforts to raise WSH awareness and competencies among our staff and students, in order to inculcate and imbue our future workforce with good WSH values.
5. We have a total of 18 member-organizations in HER WG. They are the
a. Six Universities –
i. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
ii. National University of Singapore (NUS)
iii. Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
iv. Singapore Management University (SMU)
v. Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS); &
vi. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
b. Five Polytechnics
i. Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP)
ii. Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP)
iii. Republic Polytechnic (RP)
iv. Singapore Polytechnic (SP)
v. Temasek Polytechnic (TP)
c. Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
d. Three national research clusters are
ii. CREATE and
iii. DMERI / DSO National Laboratories.
e. Three healthcare clusters are
i. National Healthcare Group (NHG),
ii. National University Hospital System (NUHS), and
iii. Singapore Health Services (SingHealth).
6. The work we do is important in raising safety and health standards, not only in our present workforce, but also the workforce of tomorrow. They are the students in our institutions today.
7. Our students are not only taught safety and health in their curriculum, where applicable, they also practise safety & health management in their co-curricular activities and other campus-related engagements.
8. The 18 members of the workgroup have been working closely together, to create synergistic WSH outcomes for the education and research sectors in Singapore.
9. We co-developed common sets of training materials – we have done one set for freshmen orientation, and we are currently working on pre-internship safety training. We share lessons learnt from incidents and develop common sets of safety performance indicators to enable us to benchmark our safety performance, just to name a few. I will now provide more details on three of our joint projects.
10. One of our collaborative efforts is in the harmonisation of chemical safety and biosafety training courses and mutual recognition of these courses across Institutes of Higher Learning and the Healthcare clusters. Our laser safety training courses are harmonised with NEA’s requirements.
11. The objective is the mutual recognition to minimise repetitive safety training and assessment arising from cross-organisational employment, attachment or collaboration amongst our students and researchers, and to achieve a common competency standard regardless of which institution you received your chemical safety or biosafety training.
12. We have developed a rigorous system which includes periodic review of the syllabus and training materials to ensure the requirements outlined in the CTAG are met. As part of the collaboration, participating institutions share a common pool of assessment questions with all the participating institutions contributing questions to this common pool. This ensures that the training outcomes are consistent across all institutions. It also minimises the effort needed by each institution to prepare a large number of assessment questions on their own.
13. The second example is the E-Guide on Best Practices in Out-of-classroom Activities. It was developed by 8 IHLs; it was completed in end 2020 and reviewed in 2021. This E-guide sets to establish standards for organising activities like student camps, overseas trips, sports and adventure events. The standard addresses areas such as roles and responsibilities of all personnel involved – from staff to student leaders and participants. It also provides guidance to hazard identification and risk assessment in an outdoor setting and the control measures which should be considered. The E-guide complements existing standard operating procedures and training materials.
14. A final project that I would like to mention today, is the on-going collaboration between HER WG and the authorities to fine-tune S&H regulations, standards and codes.
15. As a group, we had provided feedback to the Enterprise Singapore’s Working Group that developed the Code of Practice for Fire Safety for Laboratories using Chemicals. Our feedback had been incorporated into this CP.
16. We had also worked with the Pro-Enterprise Panel and NEA to streamline the licensing requirements for confocal microscopes. These special microscopes which use lasers to illuminate samples under the lens. In the past, users of confocal microscopes had to be licensed. For this, they have to undergo an eye examination and take a laser safety test administered by NEA. Although the laser source may be high power, but after the beam passes through the microscope optical system, it may end up lower than the licensing limit. HER WG is grateful to NEA for recognising this and has made the licensing requirement less onerous.
17. These three examples demonstrate how our 18 members leverage on our strengths, share resources, learn from each other and coordinate efforts to address common challenges and achieve positive outcomes for the Higher Education and Research sectors. Together, we help our students and researchers adopt safety & health best practices in their respective institutions.
18. If our students do not see and experience safety & health best practices being implemented in their institution, they will most likely enter the workforce ignorant of safety & health issues. Hence, the work by faculty members and staff is important. Institutions of Higher Learning provide the last few years of formal education before our students enter the workforce. Through our efforts, our students experience safety and health best practice in action in a nurturing environment.
19. I am very heartened and glad, that we are all here today to share and learn together. Consistent with the spirit of collaboration and sharing in HER WG, we will hear from the speakers from different institutions how they manage Risk Assessment in a non-laboratory setting.
20. With this, I would like to wish everyone, a very interesting and fruitful forum this afternoon.