Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor at the STAS-WSH Council Safety Forum 2023

07 Sep 2023 Speeches

Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, Chairman, WSH Council (National Work at Heights Safety) Taskforce at the 
STAS-WSH Council Safety Forum 2023 on 
7 September 2023 at 9.30am

Mr John Tan, President, Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore
Distinguished speakers, industry partners,
Ladies and gentlemen.

1.   Good morning, and my appreciation to STAS for inviting me to the STAS-WSH Council Workplace Safety Forum 2023. I am glad to be here and am happy to see so many participants attending today’s forum. 

2.   Associations play an important role in helping the industry in being safe. On behalf of the WSH Council, I am happy to be able to work together with STAS for this event.

Overview of Work at Heights performance in 2022 and 1st Half of 2023
3.   Working at heights is integral in many industries, such as construction, marine and manufacturing. This event aims to raise awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) about the risks associated with working at heights.

4.   Falling from Heights is one of the leading causes of fatal and major injuries in Singapore.

5.   In the first half of 2023, there were 4 reported workplace fatalities due to falling from heights. Although this is fewer than the 7 fatalities recorded in the first half of 2022, it is similar to the 4 fatalities for the same period in 2021. Even though the number this year has fallen from last year, one death is still one too many, and we must do all we can to reduce this number even further.

6.   I would like to share a recent incident that occurred on 18 April this year, a worker was carrying out welding works at a newly constructed lift shaft when he fell into the shaft. He landed on the ground about six metres below, and sadly died of his injuries in the hospital. 

7.   Preliminary investigations found that guard rails were present around the open sides of the lift shaft, but he was not equipped with any fall-arrest equipment or travel restraints. This incident could have been avoided, and more should be done to educate workers about work-at-height safety.

8.   Beyond falls from height, there are other areas that are of increasing concern. We have seen that smaller scale construction activities such as Additions & Alterations, Renovation and Facilities Management related work are rising; with 6 fatalities in the first half of this year, compared to 4 fatalities for the same period in 2022, and 3 in 2021. 

SME WSH Packs on Ladder Safety and Roofworks Safety 

9.   How can we ensure that our workers can work safely? I understand that SMEs have limited time and resources to go through lengthy WSH publications for guidance on what they can do to keep their workplace safe for their workers. 

10.   Hence to assist SMEs, the WSH Council has developed a series of SME WSH Packs that contains bite-sized guidance materials focusing on common accident types and their corresponding preventive measures. We had previously released two packs on Vehicular Safety and Slips, Trips and Falls. 

11.   I am pleased to share that we have now curated the third SME WSH Pack with a special focus on Ladder Safety and Roofworks Safety. It contains relevant checklists, posters and stickers, to guide SMEs on working safely at heights. 

12.   All these Packs are available in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, and can be downloaded from the WSH Council’s website.  I strongly encourage all SMEs to use these resources to enhance workplace safety within your specialist trade activities.

RAS Specialised Course 
13.   In 2020, I had announced that the Roofing Association Singapore (RAS) would be developing a specialised course to build up the capabilities of roofing specialists.

14.   As shared by Mr Tan earlier, I am pleased to hear the course is now open for registration. This course is essential in equipping roofing professionals and those who need to work on roofs, with the necessary safety knowledge and skills to carry out their tasks safely and efficiently. I strongly urge you to sign up for it to upgrade and upskill yourselves.

15.   Safety is of paramount importance, and we cannot take things for granted. We need to continuously invest in training and education. This will ensure the safety and well-being of our workers to achieve our WSH 2028 goals.

Post HSP and SAFE Measures
16.   As you may know, MOM had called for a Heightened Safety Period (HSP) between September 2022 to May 2023, following a spate of accidents during the first half of last year. During this period, the workplace fatality rate fell from 1.5 per 100,000 workers before HSP, to 0.8 during the HSP. This shows that we can achieve a safer workplace if we put our minds to it.

17.   We have now exited from HSP, and the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce has implemented new measures to sustain our WSH outcomes. These new SAFE measures aim to strengthen the WSH ownership fundamentally and sustainably across the entire ecosystem — at the sectoral, company and worker level.

18.   One of these measures is the requirement for Video Surveillance System (VSS) at worksite locations where high-risk work activities are ongoing for construction projects valued at $5 million and above.

19.   This requirement will help many of the specialist trade contractors and micro builders better manage workplace safety and health at their worksites. For example, it could assist to monitor work activities near roofs, formwork or scaffolds and act as a deterrent against unsafe behaviours. Video footages could also supplement training to reinforce WSH systems and processes. I believe this will help reduce our fall from heights injuries and fatalities further.

20.   Many of such VSS and technology solution providers are also being exhibited at the BEX Asia expo downstairs, and may be able to help you in your WSH journey. So, do visit them and start the discussion early to implement VSS at your worksites. 


21. During today’s forum, I urge all of you to actively participate, ask questions, and engage with the experts and fellow attendees. Let us foster a collaborative environment where we can collectively learn, grow, and make a lasting impact on the safety landscape of our workplaces. 

Thank you.