19 May 2020
OPENING REMARKS BY MR DOUGLAS FOO, CHAIRMAN OF THE WSH COUNCIL (MANUFACTURING) COMMITTEE AT THE
SAFE HANDS CAMPAIGN 2020 ON MONDAY 19 MAY 2020
Fellow friends, colleagues, and industry partners,
1. Good afternoon. Welcome to the launch of the Safe Hands Campaign 2020 and I am glad to join all of you today.
Stay Healthy and Keep Your Hands Safe
2. The COVID-19 virus outbreak has had a significant impact on our society, disrupting the way we live, work, and play. As mentioned by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, containment measures such as wearing of masks, regular washing of hands, safe distancing and staggered working and lunch hours will become part of the new workplace safety and health standards and guidelines going forward. This will become the new normal, and we will have to adapt quickly.
3. Last month, the Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad mentioned at the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign 2020 that the pandemic highlights the importance of taking care of the health of our workers. We have witnessed examples of companies having their business operations crippled overnight and temporarily suspending their activities because their employees had contracted the virus. This is a clear signal to us in the manufacturing sector to take safe distancing and prevention of ill health measures seriously. Therefore, I would like urge all of you to heed the Ministry of Health’s and the Ministry of Manpower’s advisories: be socially responsible, wear a mask, maintain good personal hygiene, and practice proper safe distancing measures at all times at the workplaces.
Safe Hands Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
4. We must protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow workers at the workplace. This goes beyond hand and finger injuries, but also in the prevention of the formation of new virus clusters and its potential spread at the workplaces. This is the objective of the WSH Council and its tripartite partners, especially during this period as we support the nation’s fight against COVID-19, and I believe many of you share the same goals too.
5. Even after the circuit breaker is lifted, we must not let our guard down. We must be mindful in preventing the re-emergence of more cases. Hence, I encourage all employers to adopt the Safe Management Measures as advised by the Ministry of Manpower. These include reducing physical interaction as much as possible, such as telecommuting and hosting virtual meetings by default instead of physical meetings, even between colleagues at the workplace. For those of whose job functions cannot be carried out remotely, such as those in the frontline operations and fieldwork, please ensure that your workers wear a mask, and that there are staggered work and break hours in place to minimise physical contact among your workers. As far as possible, implement split or shift team arrangements, and monitor individual movements within the workplace to support contact tracing.
6. To help companies implement these measures, the WSH Council has a variety of materials available in the form of simple infographics and pictograms. These include items such as basic rules for safe distancing, and basic rules for workplace hygiene. They are accessible via the Council’s website, and more will be made available in the coming months ahead. Do make use of them to keep your employees updated on the latest advisories.
7. At the same time, we must not forget the importance of preventing hand and finger injuries, which can also have significant impact on the livelihoods of our workers. As such, the WSH Council has also put together a set of Safe Hands kits available online for the manufacturing industry, specifically for the metalworking, food and beverages manufacturing, and woodworking. These kits include relevant materials, such as photo libraries for machine safety, guides on safe operations of machines, and repositories of case studies for each subsector. We urge employers to tap on the Council’s resources to equip and educate your employees, even after the crisis is over.
8. Today, I am glad to share that we have managed to garner more than 90 companies pledging towards the Safe Hands Campaign. These pledges represent the dedication the manufacturing industry has towards ensuring a safer and healthy workforce in Singapore. We would like to encourage more to do so in the coming months ahead.
9. Once again, let us take time to take care of our safety and health, not just during this pandemic period but also post COVID-19. Continue to look out for one another as we overcome this challenging crisis together as one Singapore United. I am confident that we will emerge stronger and better prepared against new waves of infectious diseases, and what better way to start than with our hands. Together we can overcome!