Opening Address by Mr Vincent Phang at the 21st SISO Annual WSHO Conference 2023
23 Oct 2023 SpeechesOpening Address by Mr Vincent Phang,
Deputy Chairman, WSH Council at the
21st SISO Annual WSHO Conference 2023 on
Wednesday, 20 October 2023 at 9.10am
Mr Eric Law, Vice President of the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers,
Mr Silas Sng, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health,
Distinguished speakers and guests,
Fellow WSH professionals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning and I am honoured to join you at the 21st SISO Annual Workplace Safety and Health Officers (WSHOs) Conference.
2. This Conference has grown to be an annual event much anticipated by the WSH community and unites WSH Professionals to exchange knowledge and learn from one another. I just heard the event is oversubscribed with more than 400 participants, and would like to congratulate SISO for successfully organising this event for all of us who believe in the WSH mission.
Important Role of WSH Professionals
3. In May this year, the Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce introduced the Safety Accountability, Focus and Empowerment, or SAFE measures, to strengthen WSH ownership sustainably at all levels, including those of company leaders and workers.
4. WSH professionals play a crucial role in contributing towards effective implementation of these SAFE Measures. They provide professional WSH advice and recommendations to company leaders and assist them by managing risks on the ground. At the same time, they guide workers to be vigilant about unsafe practices, encourage and assist them to report safety issues, and help with necessary actions to rectify them.
5. WSH professionals bring a unique viewpoint to the organisation, often looking at safety issues from a trained and specialised standpoint. In my mind, you are like Professional Engineers (PE) for construction and design. PEs are pivotal to the design and construction of physical structures ensuring that they are safe. Every infrastructure project needs a Professional Engineer just like how all companies require WSH professionals.
6. WSH professionals provide valuable technical knowledge to identify safety concerns and offer recommendations on possible solutions to management so they can make informed decisions on matters such as safety protocols, procedures, minimising vulnerabilities with continuous monitoring, and enhancing situational awareness.
7. A WSH professional is also empowered by the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health to intervene and investigate on unsafe practices within an organisation. You play a vital role in promoting and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces and you are supported by a robust regulatory framework and enforcement powers.
8. I have personally benefitted from the technical aspects in safety enhancements from my interactions with my own company’s WSH Officer as we work together with the operations team. For example, where I come from, SingPost, we are reviewing our operations now to get ready for the year-end peak season, so that we can deliver packages to you in a safe and timely manner.
9. Speaking from experience, I urge all WSH professionals to influence your corporate bosses on the need and advantages of better WSH, remain proactive in managing your co-workers to adhere to safe work practices, and continue to build up your own technical competencies to become more effective in your roles.
Top Executive WSH Programme
10. Senior management has the biggest say in shaping an organisation’s WSH culture. I hope that we have made your job of convincing senior management easier by publishing the Approved Code of Practice for CEOs and Board Directors’ WSH Duties. When they know that they are ultimately accountable, they should heed to your advice and recommendations in making our workplaces safe and healthy.
11. For those of you working in high-risk industries, do remind your bosses that they are required to attend the Top Executive WSH Programme (TEWP) by March 2024. The TEWP covers topics including the business benefits and value of WSH, Code of Practice on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ WSH Duties, and root-cause analysis of top incident types.
12. Leaders from other industry sectors are also welcomed to attend and benefit from this training. After completing this programme, you can tell them that they can now better comply with the law and uphold their responsibilities by implementing the principles in the ACOP. Companies whose CEO or Board Director who have completed the TEWP programme can proceed with their bizSAFE Level 1 application.
WSH Coordinator Refresher Training
13. From the top management to the worker level, you can manage your teams better if you have WSH coordinators on your side and aligned with you. Encourage them to attend the WSH Coordinator Refresher Training, which covers several key WSH topics including risk management, as well as the latest WSH developments and practices. Such training enables WSH Coordinators to keep their skillsets updated and ensures that they are well-equipped to cope with future challenges.
14. Unlike WSH Officers, WSH Coordinators were previously not required to undergo further training after graduating from the Advanced Certificate in WSH Programme. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and WSH Council now require construction companies to send WSH Coordinators appointed in their worksites to attend the WSH Coordinator Refresher Training. WSH Coordinators in the construction industry trained before 2022 must complete the programme by 31 December 2023. All WSH Coordinators, including those from other industry sectors will be required to attend the training every two years starting from 2024. You can find out more about the TEWP and WSH Coordinator Refresher Training on the WSH Council's website.
Continuing Professional Development of WSHOs
15. Besides influencing bosses and managing co-workers, I hope you will not lose sight in developing your own capabilities. MOM and the WSH Council will continue to work with SISO to continue developing WSHOs professionally.
16. Supported by the WSH Council, MOM and SISO undertook a comprehensive review of the Safety Development Unit framework in January 2023. This resulted in an expansion of the range of accredited training, to include courses supporting the adoption of WSH technology and those that broaden WSHOs’ technical knowledge to better manage workplace risks posed by combustible dust hazard and hazmat.
17. Other than technical skills, soft skills are also crucial in enabling WSHOs to carry out their roles effectively. The WSH Council will work with MOM and SISO to develop more courses for WSHOs to hone their soft skills, such as leadership development, problem-solving, and effective communication.
18. WSH Professionals play a crucial role in upholding WSH standards, especially by being the bridge between senior management and workers on the ground. We need to move the entire organisation towards achieving our WSH 2028 goals and the WSH Council is committed to supporting you in this journey.
19. I wish you a fruitful Conference ahead. Thank you.