Speech by Mr. Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower at the launch of the National WSH Campaign 2011 at Raffles Place Park on 20 April 2011, 12pm
Mr. Heng Chiang Gnee, Deputy Chairman, WSH Council
Mr Stephen Lee, President, Singapore National Employers Federation
Mr John de Payva, President, National Trades Union Congress
Members of the Workplace Safety and Health Council and Committees
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to see so many of you today at the launch of the National Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Campaign 2011, especially our partners from industry. It is the strong support of the industry that has helped to improve WSH performance over the years. Last year, our workplace fatality rate has fallen to a new low of 2.2 per 100,000 workers, bringing us closer to our 2018 target of 1.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers. To sustain our progress, we need to focus on three areas: cultivating leadership, raising professionalism and deepening WSH knowledge.
Sustaining progress through leadership, professionalism and knowledge
2. Our progress so far would not have been possible without the support and drive by strong leadership. Leaders set the direction of their organisations in all aspects, including WSH. This is seen in organisations with good WSH performance, such as City Developments Limited and United Engineers Limited. They are led by highly committed management teams which place WSH high on their business agenda and walk the talk on the ground to push for better WSH outcomes. To raise the WSH standards of industries and companies, we need more of such committed leaders to put in place infrastructure and allocate resources to protect the safety and well-being of their employees and other stakeholders.
3. Strong leadership must be complemented by dedicated and competent personnel to drive WSH improvements on the ground. Therefore, we need to raise the professionalism of our managers and WSH personnel. My Ministry has earlier established the WSH Professionals Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) framework. Since 2007, more than 9,000 have been trained. This provides a clear and structured path for professionals to build up their competencies and advance their careers in workplace safety and health. Increasingly, the WSH profession is gaining credence and popularity, with more taking up a WSH career.
4. With strong leaders and professionals in WSH, we need to deepen our WSH knowledge to better understand our challenges and find the right solutions. We must develop better training programmes for our leaders, professionals and workers, as well as develop innovative WSH solutions to address pertinent concerns.
WSH Institute drives efforts in focus areas
5. While we have achieved some progress in the three areas that I mentioned, we must do more to sustain our progress. The newly formed WSH Institute, which was first announced in July 2009, will drive efforts in these areas as it aims to be a leading institute in WSH Knowledge and Innovations. First, in leadership and professional development - the WSH Institute will cultivate WSH leadership ethos and raise the competency of WSH professionals. Here, the Institute will partner top business schools and other Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to develop leadership programmes and executive WSH courses. It will also invite renowned business leaders and international WSH experts to engage local leaders and professionals through executive workshops.
6. Second, the Institute will enhance WSH knowledge by developing effective solutions to address the issues facing industry today. For example, in-depth applied research into work processes such as working at height may yield new solutions to help industry better manage the risk of falling from heights. This is one of the items in the draft national WSH research agenda prepared by the Institute to guide its efforts. This draft agenda was developed with key industry stakeholders and will be open for public consultation today on the WSH Institute website on www.wsh-institute.sg. I urge you to provide inputs to help us map out key areas where research can build stronger national WSH capabilities. My ministry has set aside $8 million over the next 4 years to help kick-start the work outlined in the agenda.
7. Finally, the Institute will facilitate the promulgation of WSH knowledge through its information and consultancy services. The WSH Institute aims to build a repository of WSH information and solutions that would be readily accessible by the industry, in order to facilitate knowledge transfer. The Institute would also develop consultancy services and capabilities so as to offer customised WSH solutions to companies to help them manage their WSH risks.
Getting workplaces WSH-ready
8. As with previous years, the annual NWSH Campaign brings everyone together to keep our workplaces safe. This year, there is new meaning to this “National” Campaign. Just last week, I announced in Parliament that the WSH Act would cover all workplaces in Singapore from September 2011. These include new sectors such as retail, entertainment, administrative services and finance. As these sectors, while less risky, still account for 30% of work injuries and 6% of fatalities, it is important that everyone in these sectors is mindful of workplace risks. It is, therefore, apt that this year’s campaign is held right here, in the heart of Singapore’s business district.
9. In addition to the Campaign, as Mr Heng mentioned earlier, my Ministry and the WSH Council will continue to help workplaces be WSH-ready. We will step up promotional efforts to engage all our stakeholders through TV commercials and roadshows. While I shan’t give the plot away, let me give you a little hint. Keep your eyes open when you view our new TV commercial later and see what work risks you can spot. In line with this year’s Campaign theme, let us work together and say “No” to risks at work!