11 Jan 2023

Opening Address by Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower at the ASMI WSH Seminar: Deepening WSH Ownership, Strengthening WSH Standards in the Marine Industries on 11 Jan 2023 at 10.10am

Professor Chan Eng Soon, Chairman, WSH Council (Marine Industries) Committee,
Mr Simon Kuik, President, Association of Singapore Marine Industries,
Ladies and gentlemen.

1. Good morning! I am glad to be able to join you for the ASMI WSH Seminar on “Deepening WSH Ownership and Strengthening WSH Standards in the Marine Industries”. 

Singapore’s and Marine Industries’ WSH Performance in 2022 
2. 2022 was a rocky year for workplace safety and health (WSH). A series of fatalities in the first eight months of 2022 led to the implementation of the six-month Heightened Safety Period (HSP) last September. Under the HSP, MOM introduced new and tougher measures to arrest the spate of fatalities.

3. For the marine industries, I am heartened that the WSH track record improved from four accidents resulting in five fatalities in 2022 before the HSP, or an average of 0.6 per month, to zero after the start of HSP. 

4. Similarly, the monthly average of major injuries in the marine industries dropped by more than half, from 1.5 before the HSP to 0.7 from September to November. This shows that when companies get serious, go for zero accidents and fatalities and commit to WSH, accidents can be prevented. 

5. At the national level, the average number of workplace fatalities per month reduced from 4.5 in January to August 2022, to 2.5 fatalities per month from September to December. 

6. Unfortunately, there were four fatalities in last December alone.  This tells us that we need to sustain our focus and commitment to WSH over time. This means constantly updating our WSH management systems to account for foreseeable risks, checking that risk control measures and safe work procedures are implemented well, as well as keeping workers aware, trained and empowered to prevent accidents. 

Continued Efforts and Vigilance 
7. Recent Ministry of Manpower (MOM) inspections have found that most shipyards have good WSH management systems in place. Only one shipyard, Techno Fibre (S) Pte. Ltd., was found with major WSH lapses, including failing to comply with MOM’s requirement for a mandatory Safety Time-Out. It was debarred from hiring new work pass holders for one month. 

8. I urge all ASMI members to continue sustaining high WSH standards. We need to remain vigilant at all times, so that our workers and their families do not suffer the trauma of a major workplace injury or fatality. 

Launch of WSH Guidelines: Implementation of WSHMS for Marine Industries
9. Due to the sheer scale and complexity of marine industry operations, companies need to manage and run their operations systematically to prevent accidents from occurring. Today, I am pleased to launch the revised WSH Guidelines on the Implementation of WSH Management System for Marine Industries. MOM and the WSH Council had worked closely with ASMI so that the revised Guidelines are aligned with ISO 45001:2018 on “Occupational health and safety management systems.”

10. The Guidelines provide actionable guidance to companies and workers in three ways:

Firstly, on Leadership Responsibilities. Drawing references from the Approved Code of Practice on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ WSH Duties, the Guidelines call upon top management to strengthen WSH ownership within their companies. As leaders of the organisation, they are responsible for driving continual WSH improvement, and fostering a culture of safety and health. At the bizSAFE Convention last month, I shared that the bizSAFE Level 1 course for top management will be revamped to include training on the ACOP. A new training video on the ACOP is also in the works to further guide top management on the necessary behaviours that will help them and guide them to comply with their existing legal duties. These are slated to be ready within this first quarter of 2023, so please keep a lookout for them.

Secondly, on Supervisors’ and Workers’ Responsibilities. Ground staff have an equally important role to play – they have to adhere to all safety and health measures. Always remember that safety is a top priority; be on alert for any safety lapses, and do not hesitate to stop work and report them immediately. 

Lastly, on System and Processes. It is important to have a robust WSH Management System in place. This will enable companies to progress towards a sustained reduction in workplace fatalities and injuries. 

11. I urge all marine companies to refer to the revised Guidelines, which will be free and publicly available, and review your existing systems. Doing so is mutually beneficial for your company and workers. Not only would workers be more assured, having a good safety track record is ultimately good for business, as many customers take safety record into account in selecting their shipyard contractor. Auditing Organisations accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council will audit shipyards’ WSH management systems based on these Guidelines. Furthermore, MOM inspections will also take reference from the Guidelines.  Companies should implement these Guidelines or have measures of similar effect. 

12. In addition, top management must be prudent in allocating enough resources to improve and sustain WSH. This includes investing in WSH technology, which is part of the WSH 2028 strategy to augment human judgement to prevent accidents. For example, an electronic permit-to-work system for day-to-day operations makes it easier to track data for any type of permit at any given period. It also aids transparency as workers’ qualifications and certifications can be pre-screened during registration.

13. Last year, Keppel Offshore & Marine – New Builds Division won the WSH Innovation Awards for their project named Robotic S.G.V. Developed to minimise workers’ exposure to work at height risks, robotics and scanners were used to perform tasks like wire rope inspection and lubrication of luffing cranes. The company’s investment in technology not only protected workers from work at height risks, it also improved productivity by reducing the number of manhours from 69 per month to 13.5 per month. This represents a cost reduction of about 80%!

14. Apart from technology, investment in health is equally important. We cannot perform tasks properly when we are physically unwell. Similarly, we are unable to concentrate when we are bogged down with stressful thoughts on family or personal issues. These can lead to dangerous, and even fatal, outcomes at work.

15. To promote the importance of mental resilience among marine workers, ASMI will include an additional psychological first aid module in the “Occupational First Aid” refresher course, which is compulsory for all workers working at shipyards. To be implemented in the second quarter of 2023, this additional module aims to equip workers with the skills to identify signs of stress, and provide emotional support to their peers in need. 

16. It is crucial that we take time to take care of our safety and health. We must always prioritise WSH and not be complacent. Let us work towards building safe workplaces and a healthy workforce for our marine workers. I wish all of you a safe and healthy 2023, and a fruitful seminar ahead. Thank you!