Opening Address by Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council at the WSH Institute Forum themed 'The Next WSH Frontier' 11 Sep 2013 (Wed), 2.25pm, Furama City Centre Hotel, Grand Ballroom, Level 5
Opening Address by Chairman, Workplace Safety and Health Council
at the WSH Institute Forum themed ‘The Next WSH Frontier’
11 Sep 2013 (Wed), 2.25pm, Furama City Centre Hotel,
Grand Ballroom, Level 5
Members of the WSH Council and WSH Institute Governing Board,
Distinguished speakers and guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am glad to see close to 400 participants here with us today, with many familiar faces in the audience. Our WSH stakeholders are truly passionate and engaged in our efforts to create a safe and healthy workplace for everyone.
2 A warm welcome too, to our international guests and speakers, and to Dr David Gold, who will be moderating the panel discussion later, for joining us and agreeing to contribute their valuable knowledge and insights this afternoon.
‘The Next WSH Frontier’
3 The theme of today’s forum “The Next WSH Frontier” is most appropriate. In July this year, at the National WSH Awards, I spoke on the progress we have made since the reform of the WSH framework in 2005, which led to the formation of the WSH Council in 2008. “Change” is also the anchor message in the Council’s Annual Report this year, as we take time to reflect on and review our record and what lies ahead.
4 As indicated then, 2013 is the midpoint of our national WSH 2018 strategy period. We should review the journey that we have made, and in embarking on the next phase of our pursuit of better WSH outcomes, it is useful to learn from international experience and best practice.
Growing international interest on the topic of ‘Vision Zero’
5 As observed in recent years, there is a growing international interest in the concept of Vision Zero, to drive improvements in WSH outcomes. Many countries have alluded, at the national or strategic programme level, to the fundamentals of Vision Zero - that is, every incident of injury and ill-health is preventable. There is an urgency to turn around the mindset and thinking that it is somehow ‘okay’ for people to get injured or killed at the workplace or in fact, even expected of some work activities. To illustrate this point, if an airline company communicates that it is satisfied meeting the company’s target accident rate of 1 accident per million flying hours, what would you think would be the effect on passengers choosing to fly with the airline? Would this even be acceptable to their staff?
6 Today’s mindset or expectation of society for zero injuries in the airline and rail travel industries is strongly developed. On this same note, when workers in different industries leave home for work, should we not have the same expectation, that all should return home safely at the end of their work, and for the rest of their working lives? We therefore start a similar line of thought and expectation for zero injuries and zero ill-health for WSH across all businesses. I hope all of you will join me in advocating that it is never going to be ‘okay’ for anyone to be injured or killed because they go to work.
7 In order to gain insights and updates on recent global trends and new developments in WSH, the WSH Institute has carried out an international scan of national WSH strategies1. Eight countries were included in the study, including some from which come our international guests. The study primarily aimed to gain a better understanding on the approaches taken by our international counterparts, at the national level, towards improved WSH outcomes and performance.
1  Abdul Azim, A., Kee Chong, T., Siok Lin, G., & Takala, J. (2013, September). Vision Zero. In WSH Institute. Retrieved September 8, 2013, from http://www.wshi.gov.sg/Leadership-And-Development/Vision-Zero.html
8 Most interestingly, a common thread from the study findings is the ambiguity in definition of the term ‘Vision Zero’. The term carries different meanings and interpretations and evokes varied responses. Some think Vision Zero should be a guiding principle. For some, it is an ethical argument for a normative WSH outcome. For others, it is as concrete as it can get - a strategic plan.
Findings from the WSH Stakeholders’ Dialogue on ‘Vision Zero’
9 Through the various Council entities - industry and functional committees, taskforces and workgroups - the WSH Institute in April this year initiated a WSH Stakeholders’ Dialogue to gather insights on industry thinking and perceptions on Vision Zero. This dialogue is still ongoing, and this forum today is a continuation of this. 157 business leaders’ insights and perspectives have so far been sought. Some of you here may have already shared your insights with us.
10 From this dialogue, concerns were raised by industry partners, for example on how things should be done in practice, and the potential cost impact of aiming for Vision Zero. These are genuine concerns and we will work with industry to address them. We will work again to show that investment in WSH reduces operating costs in the long run.
11 It is encouraging that more than 90% of business leaders affirmed their belief that Vision Zero is the right mindset to adopt.
12 This is important, as our WSH performance now faces a plateau after improving over the last few years. We now need to initiate “Vision Zero” - a process of challenging mindsets and encouraging the shift to believing that every incident is preventable.
13 We will continue to explore and study Vision Zero and its fundamentals, to embrace these values at the conceptual level, and move forward to see how these may guide us and change our approach to the actual plans for the next stage of our WSH journey.
Invitation to Participate in the Panel Discussion
14 We are truly fortunate this afternoon to have this exceptional opportunity to have not one, but several international WSH thought leaders and experts together with us, to hear their views on Vision Zero. During the panel discussion later, I hope all of us will participate and engage the panel through the various modes of engagement and participation that will be made available.
15 In closing, I would like to again thank all of you for your participation in this forum and hope we will gain better understanding and insight to ‘Vision Zero’ as we commence this next stage of our work to raise WSH standards and performance.
16 I wish you all a fruitful and engaging forum. Thank you.