Opening Address by Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor for the Vision Zero Forum for HEI
07 Nov 2023 SpeechesOpening Address by Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor,
Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council,
for the Vision Zero Forum for H&EI on
Tuesday, 7 November 2023, 10:00am, at
Mochtar Riady Auditorium, Level 5, SMU Administration Building
Distinguished speakers and guests,
Brothers from the Union,
Colleagues from the Hospitality and Entertainment Industries,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish you all a very good morning and thank you for joining us at this session.
2. I’m glad to see that many of us are here today. With resurgence to full operations, I’m sure that many of you are very busy. This is something that we welcome and look forward to. But having said that, as what Dawn had said – it is equally important that we continue to focus on workplace safety and health. Safety standards are indeed important and very significant in preventing injuries and accidents. On top of ensuring our workers safety and health, they also prevent downtimes and improve productivity, ensuring seamless continuity of operations.
3. I am glad that the industry has shown improvement in WSH, even as businesses continue to ramp up. I thank all of you from this industry for your efforts. While there were two fatalities from the Accommodation and Food Services (A&F) sector in 2022, there were none during the first half of 2023. These are good efforts that we should continue to keep up, especially as the sector gears up for the year-end festive period when it is at its busiest.
4. I took a look at the number of major injuries for the industry and was heartened to see that the numbers have dropped, even if the number of manhours worked has increased. There were 24 major injuries during the first half 2023, down from 28 during the same period last year and 27 in the second half of 2022. We are well on track towards a downward trend in major injuries - please keep up the good work.
5. In terms of the minor injuries for the industry, there is an upward trend. It has consistently been among the top three industries contributing to minor injuries, coming just behind high-risk sectors such as Construction and Manufacturing. This remained the same for 1H2023. Although we take heart in preventing major injuries, we must remain resolute in our efforts to prevent minor injuries as well.
Common Causes of Injuries
6. Let me bring your attention to two common causes of injuries for the industry: Exposure to Extreme Temperatures and Slips, Trips, and Falls (STFs).
a) Food preparation often involves hot liquids, and staff are naturally exposed to the risks involved. Last year, a chef accidentally kicked over a bucket of hot soup on the floor as it was blocking his path. The soup spilt onto his right foot and he suffered severe burns. Immediately, he was given 48 days of medical leave.
b) Let’s look at another case, on STFs. In this case, there were no non-slip flooring or anti-slip mats installed on a kitchen floor, which is prone to wetness. One of the staff slipped and fell on the floor and fractured his tailbone. He was hospitalised for 21 days.
ACOP and bizSAFE for H&EI
7. Many of these incidents are entirely preventable with the correct measures in place and everyone playing their part. The WSH Council has various resources and programmes which can help, let me share two important ones:
a) First, I urge company leaders to go through the Approved Code of Practice for Chief Executives' and Board of Directors' WSH Duties (ACOP), which provides comprehensive guidance for top executives on their roles and duties concerning WSH. Company leaders greatly influence an organisation’s culture and the WSH Council is pushing the ACOP so that those at the top are aligned. I urge you to download the ACOP from the WSH Council’s website.
b) The second thing is bizSAFE. bizSAFE is a nationally recognised WSH capability building programme which accredits your company's WSH management. Getting recognised for your commitment to the safety of your workforce can better attract and retain talent, which is crucial amidst ongoing manpower challenges and increasing social consciousness.
c) As of October 2023, only 10% of hotels in Singapore, 1% of F&B companies and or 13% of the MICE, Entertainment and Arts sector have attained bizSAFE certification. Well done to those who are onboard, and I urge more companies to take it up. Do approach the WSH Council staff manning its booth to find out more about the programme.
National WSH Campaign: Reporting Saves Lives
8. This year’s National WSH campaign is themed, “Reporting Saves Lives”. It calls on every individual, including employers and employees, to look out for the safety and health of workers by reporting unsafe situations at the workplace. When it comes to safety, everyone has a role to play. The campaign is not only about the reporting but rather to build a culture of trust so that we can prevent injuries.
9. The Wok People, which provides a one-stop solution on employee cafeteria management, is amongst companies that have answered the call. Their Outlet Manager would report safety hazards and near misses via a mobile group chat, alerting clients to rectify them. In one case, a kitchen floor trap choke caused pooling of water that posed an STF risk to their kitchen staff. Upon receiving the report, their client responded by getting the facilities management team to clear the choke, eliminating the hazard.
10. A simple act of reporting like this can have a huge impact in keeping our workers safe. Employees should be empowered to raise safety concerns so that they can be rectified before it is too late. We must foster a culture where reporting is embraced. Remember, “Reporting Saves Lives”.
11. On this note, I want to thank Dawn and the team for this event, as well as our distinguished speakers for your insights. I urge the industry to be proactive and support the safety movement, and I look forward to witnessing key industry representatives pledge for Vision Zero later. Safety is the strongest if each and every one of us take personal ownership, and we develop collective responsibility. Thank you.