21 Feb 2023

Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, Chairman, WSH Council (National Work at Heights Safety) Taskforce at the 
Work at Heights Symposium 2023 on 
21 February 2023 at 9.30am

Members of the WSH Council (National Work at Heights Safety) Taskforce,
Distinguished speakers, industry partners,
Ladies and gentlemen.

1. Good morning! Thank you for joining us at the Work at Heights Symposium. I was told this event was fully subscribed. This goes to show that the industry is eager to learn and hungry for more information to make work at height safer.

Overview of Singapore’s Work at Height performance
2. Let me first share with you our work at height performance. There were 8 fall from height fatalities each year over the past 5 years up, except in 2019 when there were 7 fatalities. 

3. Out of these, falls from ladders averaged between 1 to 2 cases each year. I’m sure all of us remembered the 2 cases last year; the first involved a worker falling from an A-frame ladder while installing CCTV cables at a restaurant, while the other fell from his A-frame ladder while trying to hang items to the top of a tentage.

4. Sadly, we also saw 2 falls from roofs last year, when there were none for the last three years from 2019 to 2021. The case involved a worker who fell through a skylight when he was preparing to clean the roof of a factory, while the second case saw a worker slipped and fall off a roof of a residential building while doing repair works.

Work at Heights Safety Taskforce addresses ladder and roof safety
5. The WSH Council (National Work at Heights Safety) Taskforce recognises more can and must be done to address the rising trend of ladder and roof incidents. Many of these incidents can be attributed to inadequate knowledge on access and maintenance for roof safety, including proper and safe use of ladders. As such, we will be doing the following:
First, we will be setting up a Ladder Safety Work Group. The work group will look at how to better assist industries in the safe use of ladders, and how it can be applied at workplaces. I hope to have the industry support and assistance in this area.

Second, we have developed a new Roof Safety Infokit to raise awareness on working safely on roofs. This infokit consists of new collaterals on the types of fragile roof surfaces. We have also developed new digital content to provide workers with simple visual learning to enhance their Work at Height capabilities. These will help increase workers’ awareness and knowledge of roof safety, and enlighten them on what to keep in mind while working on roofs. I hope you will be able to use this new infokit to further your knowledge and operationalised it at your workplaces.

Third, we have developed a dedicated roof safety section on our website where you can find various roof-related resources to help workers during the course of their work. I encourage you and your colleagues to tap on these resources so that we can further elevate our Work at Height safety standards.

Work at height efforts and initiatives thus far 
6. These 3 new initiatives are part of the continuous efforts by the WSH Council and Work at Heights Safety Taskforce to assist the industry on working safely at height. Some of our past efforts include:
Working with training providers to enhance work at height safety elements. I want to thank the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) for their help in helping us in the Construction Safety Orientation Course curriculum to include a new topic on ladder safety, covering different types of ladders and the inspection of its condition before use.

We have enhanced the StartSAFE programme with a component on ladder safety so that those who join the programme would have a more in-depth understanding of Work at Height safety.

We collaborated with SCAL and final-year students from Temasek Polytechnic to develop VR and gamification on internalising Work at Height safety as part of experiential learning for workers attending refresher courses.

In addition, we partnered with NTUC Learning Hub to develop bite-sized work at height microlearning content.

Lastly, while we have all these initiatives to improve competencies, engagement is also key. Hence we reached out to about 5,000 migrant workers during the International Migrants Day to further educate them on work at height safety awareness through interactive games and collaterals.

7. These initiatives are all part of our efforts to help the industry to build up their capabilities and have greater awareness to manage work at height risks. As business activities continue to pick up, it is crucial for companies to maintain a high level of vigilance and resilience.

8. The Ministry of Manpower recently announced the extension of the Heightened Safety Period for another three months. My thanks to all of you for your efforts during this period, and we saw improvements in the Construction industry during this period. However, sectors like Transportation & Storage, wholesale and retail trade as well as administrative and support services saw increases in major injuries.  

9. It is clear that more needs, can and must be done to drive further improvement on workplace safety. I urge everyone to keep up with your vigilance and remember to take time to take care of your safety and health. Thank you once again for joining us at this Symposium and I wish all of you a pleasant day ahead.