Opening Address by Mr Zaqy Mohamad for the WSH Forum for Healthcare 2023

31 Mar 2023 Speeches

Opening Address by 
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, 
for the WSH Forum for Healthcare 2023 
on Thursday, 9 February 2023, 10am, at
e2i Hall 1 (Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability)

Mr John Ng, Chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council,
Dr Eugene Soh, Chairman of the WSH Council (Healthcare) Committee,
WSH Council and Committee Members, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! It is my pleasure to join you at the WSH Forum for Healthcare 2023. Healthcare workers are our national heroes – through your unwavering dedication, you have saved lives, and helped Singapore overcome COVID-19. I would first like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to our healthcare institutions and workers. A big round of applause for all of you!

WSH Performance for the Healthcare Industry

2. While the pace of work has been unrelenting, I am glad to share that there have been no work-related fatalities in the healthcare industry over the last few years. 
However, we need to remain watchful as the number of injuries, both major and minor, has increased: 
a) From 2020 to 2022, the number of major injuries has increased from 11 to 15; and

b) During the same period, the number of minor injuries increased by 21%, from 549 to 663.
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls, or STFs in short, remains the top cause for both major and minor injuries in recent years. A number of these STFs occurred in restrooms. Healthcare institutions should review how wet areas such as restrooms can be made safer, such as with anti-slip floor treatment or matting. Floors should also be kept dry as far as possible, and workers should use proper footwear, such as anti-slip shoes. For healthcare workers who are on the frontlines, it is important for them to be safe.

4. Another cause for concern is Over Exertion, which has contributed to a high number of major and minor injuries over the past three years. To prevent Over Exertion, institutions need to reduce worker fatigue. This can be done by ensuring that workers use aids and equipment when performing heavy manual tasks, and improving workload distribution among workers. 

Preventing accidents and ill-health 

5. Apart from reducing workplace accidents and injuries, another important area of concern is improving the well-being of our healthcare workers. Hence, I would like to commend the WSH Council’s Healthcare Committee for revising the WSH Guidelines for the Healthcare Industry, based on lessons learnt from the past few years. The newly revised guidelines provide actionable guidance on areas such as: 
a) Addressing workplace harassment, including abuse from customers, and how to better support staff well-being; and

b) Handling infectious diseases to upkeep WSH even during times of emergency.

6. Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang, Co-Chair of the Workgroup for the Revision of the WSH Guidelines for Healthcare, will share more about the revised guidelines with us later. 

Addressing Mental Well-being in the Healthcare Industry 

7. I am heartened to know that many healthcare institutions have already put in place Care Programmes to enhance workplace mental well-being. Let me share two examples:
a) First, All Saints Home’s introduced a Wellness Programme focusing on four key areas - Education, Encouragement, Eating Right and Esprit. In promoting Esprit, they organised cultural appreciation days where staff who could not return to their hometowns due to travel restrictions welcomed the opportunity to share their culture and native food with their colleagues. This helped relieve some of their homesickness and strengthen inclusivity. 

b) Second, SingHealth Community Hospitals put in place a WSH Framework to Manage Workplace Abuse and Assault Incidents. This includes a peer support system to manage stress and training to teach staff how to manage patients, caregivers, and visitors using appropriate techniques.

8. The WSH Council will be publishing a compilation of 19 Care Programmes by next month. Do look out for it!

Mental Well-being tools and resources to support workplaces
9. Organisations that want to better support their employees’ mental well-being should identify workplace stressors and track them over time. MOM’s complimentary iWorkHealth online survey tool can help identify common workplace stressors. Many companies have already experienced the benefits of this survey. As of 2022, more than 22,000 employees have participated in iWorkHealth, and I urge healthcare institutions who have not used it to do so.

a) We have received feedback from companies that they would like to know the pulse of their employees’ stress level without running the full survey. I am happy to share that the WSH Institute is working on a shorter version of iWorkHealth by June 2023. Companies can then use the new version to track staff mental well-being more responsively and easily.

b) We have also enhanced the list of interventions and preventive measures for companies. iWorkHealth is not just a measurement tool, but a guide for organisations on how to address problem areas as well. We hope that we can focus on other aspects of well-being of our workforce.

10. Later, representatives from 13 healthcare institutions, associations, and unions, will pledge their commitment towards Vision Zero. This is a strong signal that we are serious about protecting our healthcare workers, and preventing all workplace accidents. 

11. Our healthcare workers work hard to look after us when we are ill. Their contributions have been immense, with many going beyond the call of duty to keep us safe during the pandemic. In return, we must commit to taking care of them too, so that they can be safe, healthy, and be well. Thank you!