Opening Address by Dr Yap Him Hoo, Deputy Chairman, Landscape Sub-Committee, WSH Council at the WSH Landscape Webinar 2020

18 Sep 2020 Speeches

Opening Address by Dr Yap Him Hoo, 
Deputy Chairman, Landscape Sub-Committee, 
Workplace Safety and Health Council at the 
WSH Landscape Webinar 2020 on 
Friday, 18 September 2020
Mr Goh Eng Lam, Chairman of the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore, 
Mr Ronnie Tan, President of the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects,
Mr Boo Ghim Yew, President of the Singapore Arboriculture Society,
Industry leaders and partners, 


Ladies and gentlemen.
1.Good afternoon. Thank you for joining me at this WSH Landscape Webinar 2020, jointly organised by the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore (LIAS), National Parks Board (NParks), Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA), Singapore Arboriculture Society (SAS) and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council. 
2.This is the first time that we are holding the seminar online as we need to maintain the safe distancing requirement, so as to counter COVID-19. I thank the various associations and agencies’ support in organising this.  Despite the change in format, I understand that we have more than 300 people registered to participate in this forum, which is the largest number of participants ever.
Impact of COVID-19
3.COVID-19 has caused a huge impact on Singapore and across many industries. The landscape industry is not spared too. Landscape activities across Singapore had been disrupted during the circuit breaker period. This is evident from the overgrown grass and unkempt landscape in our neighbourhoods and parks. Some of our landscape workers are still unable to return to work due to the movement restrictions imposed at the dormitories. Overall, the industry faces a lot of challenges on many fronts, and multiple stakeholders from workers to employers and service buyers are affected. 
4.But I’m heartened to learn that our industry has risen in the face of adversity and adapted to the challenges. Companies have put in place all the Safe Management Measures and provide their workers with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their protection against COVID-19 infection. While these may incur additional costs, everyone understood that it is necessary to protect the safety and health of our workers and the community at large. 
5.We are now operating in a new normal, and businesses must adapt in order to stay ahead and thrive. To support the industry in adapting to the new norms, LIAS and NParks have jointly published a COVID-Safe landscaping guidelines on Safe Workplace, Safe Meals, Safe Transport, Safe Processes, Safe Workers and Safe Accommodation. The COVID-Safe landscaping guidelines and post-Circuit Breaker management plan pictograms have been disseminated to all LIAS members. My colleague, Whye Keet will share more in his COVID-19-Safety Matters presentation for the landscape industry later.
Importance of WSH in the landscape industry
6.COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of WSH for our workers, our companies and our community.  We must therefore continue to strive for higher WSH standards and performance for our industry. 
7.In this aspect, I would like to applaud the landscape industry for the efforts put in and I’m happy to share that no fatalities and major injuries were reported last year. However, 2019 reported the highest record in minor injuries with 80 cases. “Slips, Trips and Falls” and “Cuts/Stabs by Objects” were the top 2 incident types for minor injuries; most of the cases happened during tree works, grass and park maintenance activities. I urge companies to ensure that all your equipment are well-maintained, and the appropriate PPE are provided to workers to prevent workplace incidents.
Three strategies for better WSH
8.Every worker deserves to work in a safe environment and go home safe and healthy to their families. Therefore, it is crucial, that we take ownership and continue to uphold good WSH practices. This webinar will cover key topics that can help you keep to good WSH practices, such as Design for Safety and crane safety. I hope that through these presentations, you will be able to pick up useful information and apply it into your area of work. The WSH Council has also created a new landscape pictogram poster to raise the awareness of key WSH hazards in the landscape industry, which you can download from their website.
9.As we keep safety on the top of our minds, we also must look after our workers’ health. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for everyone to be healthy, and companies should encourage workers to actively report their health status if they are feeling unwell and consult a doctor immediately when necessary. I If you are not healthy, you would not be able to work safely, and it will be worse if your presence at work could affect your co-workers’ safety and health.
10.For those of you who wish to find out more on how to ensure your workers’ health and well-being, the 2020 National WSH Campaign microsite is a good first step for your workers to discover more about their personal health status, and also for employers to know how to create a healthier, safer and more productive workforce. 
11.In the past few months, we have seen the emergence and importance of technology in business continuity; and moving forward, technology will play a even greater role than ever. 
12.Technology can not only help in your business operations, but also eliminate or mitigate workplace risks. One company who has embraced technology is Mao Sheng Quan Ji Construction Pte Ltd. They have adopted the use of drones for aerial tree inspections and spider lifts for tree pruning. This not only removed the risk of workers falling from height without the need to climb trees but also increased their productivity. Workers are also using wearable tech to monitor their body temperatures and be alerted if his temperature is above 37.5 degrees.
13.This is just one of the many successful examples on how companies have leveraged technology to improve their business operations and WSH performance. I strongly encourage all of you to explore the available technologies in the market as they may prove to be a game changer for your business and help you emerge stronger. 
14.As we brave through the COVID-19 storm together, I want to thank the industry for the great efforts that you have put in over the years to improve the WSH performance. Do not forget to “Take Time to Take Care” of your safety and health and together, we can create a healthier and more productive workforce and safer workplaces. We are all in this together; SGUnited!
Thank you.