17 Nov 2022
Opening Address by Mr Daniel T’ng, Chairman,
WSH Council (Facilities Management) Committee at the
WSH Forum for Facilities Management Industry 2022 on
Thursday, 17 November 2022, 2.30pm
Mr Ong Hwee Liang, Vice President, NTUC Central Committee,
Industry partners and supporters,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1. Good afternoon and welcome to the WSH Forum for the Facilities Management Industry. I am pleased to see so many of you here today. My thanks to everyone and especially to our distinguished speakers for taking the time to be here at the Forum.
WSH Performance of the FM Industry
2. Singapore’s workplace safety and health record so far this year has been disheartening, with 40 workplace fatalities. This has already exceeded the 37 fatalities recorded for the whole of 2021. Out of the 40 workplace fatalities this year, we had five fatalities from the FM industry, one more compared to the four fatalities last year.
Heightened Safety Period
3. The Ministry of Manpower had announced on 1 September, a six-month “Heightened Safety Period” in view of this increased number of fatalities. During this period, companies found to have serious WSH lapses and breaches following serious or fatal workplace accidents, such as unsafe workplace conditions or poor risk controls, will face stiffer penalties; this includes debarment from hiring new foreign employees.
4. It has been two months into the Heightened Safety Period, and I am heartened to be informed of a decrease in the number of workplace fatalities, from 4.5 deaths a month to two a month. That said, with four more months of this elevated cautionary state and the approaching year-end festive period, I urge everyone to keep up with our good WSH practices; and this should not be just for the next few months, but to embed and ingrain these good WSH practices into your workplace culture. Be especially aware of your workplace surroundings, take note of anything that you see or feel that it is unsafe and take steps to rectify them immediately.
WSH Training for Cleaners
5. You may be aware that there was a recent fatality involving a cleaner who was knocked down by a reversing lorry when he was at the loading/unloading bay of a commercial premise. Such incidents can be prevented or even avoided totally, if all stakeholders take the necessary steps to manage workplace risks. Communicate your safe work procedures and ensure that all workers are provided with adequate WSH training and appropriate personal protective equipment.
6. Last year, I shared that the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners had set out recommendations in its review of the Progressive Wage Model for the cleaning industry. One of the recommendations was for all cleaning businesses to ensure that its resident cleaners have attained one mandatory module on WSH, and another WSQ module by 31 December 2022. This training is important to keep cleaners aware of their own personal safety and take due care when carrying out cleaning tasks. Those of you who have yet to send your cleaners for the WSH training, I urge you to do so to avoid the last-minute rush and any disruption to your operations.
MCSTs’ Role in WSH Practices
7. The Management Corporation Strata Title or MCST, for short, is formed under the Land (Strata) Title Act. It is a body corporate comprising strata-titled developments such as condominiums or mixed-used strata-titled developments comprising commercial establishments like shopping malls or office buildings.
8. The Management Council (MC) of the MCST plays an important role to ensure that all work activities by their contractors and workers are carried out in a safe and healthy manner. It is important for the MCs of MCSTs to know and understand their WSH obligations, and to work with managing agents, contractors, and vendors they engage to protect workers’ lives.
9. Slips, Trips and Falls have constantly remained as the top contributor to major and minor injuries over the years. We have had a few incidents where workers were injured during their work in the common property of strata-titled developments.
10. For example, a cleaner was seriously injured while working around the refuse handling equipment in a private residential premise in September this year. Such accidents could have been avoided if appropriate measures were taken to restrict access control of refuse handling equipment to authorised personnel who have received training to operate this equipment.
11. Enforcement actions were taken against the employer for failure to identify the hazards and communicate the risks to the workers. As such, it is important for management councils and managing agents of MCST to have the necessary WSH knowledge so that they may work with their stakeholders to provide a safe workplace environment for their workers.
Launch of WSH Guidelines for MCST
12. To assist management councils and managing agents in this, I am happy to announce that the WSH Council has produced the “Guide to Workplace Safety and Health for Management Corporation Strata Title”. This Guide clarifies the WSH roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and enhances their WSH knowledge to uplift safety standards in strata-tiled developments. The Guide is available in your goodie bag or you may download a copy from the WSH Council’s website.
Post-Pandemic; New WSH Lessons
13. Today’s Forum is themed “Evolving Workplace Safety and Health in Facilities Management”. The past couple of years of living with the COVID-19 pandemic saw us survive a global disaster on an unprecedented scale. It taught us crucial lessons and forced us to examine additional facets to WSH which are relevant for us moving forward.
14. First, is that infectious disease control requires routine disinfection of areas with high human touch points. In the earlier days of COVID-19, security officers were required to assist with temperature screening of visitors entering a building. These critical pieces of work placed additional workload on FM workers, when they could potentially be alleviated with the use of robots and technology. Our earlier session this morning had showcased good WSH technologies for companies to adopt.
15. Second, majority of Singaporeans often consume their meals outside of their homes due to their busy schedule. The common perception about out-of-home dining options may not be the healthiest. As such, we need to bear in mind that we need to keep our bodies healthy with proper nutritional choices. This, in turn, will keep us healthy and help us be safer at the workplace.
16. Third is climate change. Temperatures in Singapore is expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius on some days due to a warming planet and compounded by the urban environment releasing trapped heat from buildings, roads, and vehicles. It is important therefore to put in place measures to protect our FM workers from heat injuries while working outdoors.
17. These are important issues that the FM industry must consider and will be covered by our speakers at today’s Forum. I hope you will be able find inspiration and good insights from them to help achieve better WSH performance at your workplaces. I wish you a fruitful Forum, and please continue to take time to take care of your safety and health! Thank you.