I applaud the commitment by the most senior government officials in Singapore for showing leadership and enabling a whole nation to achieve a common goal of eliminating injury and illness in the workplace through political engagement. It not only provides a lot of momentum, but also confidence to health and safety practitioners when progressive policies are promoted by all levels of government and supported by labour and industry.
Government, labour and employers were present at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference 2014 to promote and understand the challenges and were committed to make this happen.
I am impressed by the broad level of commitment demonstrated by world-class health and safety organizations like the Workplace Health and Safety Institute (WHSI) and the Workplace Safety and Health Council. Their support comes from clear and consistent leadership from the highest levels of the national government. During various times of the ASEAN-OSHNET meetings and the conference, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Senior Minister of State and Minister of Health and Manpower, and the Senior Parliamentary Secretary and Minister of Education and Manpower delivered addresses, while other senior Ministry officials were also in attendance. It is refreshing to see all of them speak of a singular vision for a Singapore without workplace injuries and illnesses and their support for the country’s “Vision Zero” action plan for achieving their goals.
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, acknowledged the challenge ahead but reaffirmed the government’s resolve in achieving the OSH goals of the nation. He spoke of the need to integrate worker health issues with workplace safety, and for industry to take a holistic approach to OSH if they were going to eliminate injuries and illnesses in Singaporean workplaces – a problem that is costing the country 3.2% of their GDP. Consequently, OSH prevention strategies are recognized as part of the overall growth strategy for the region. A trade deal to be completed within the year with all the other ASEAN countries will include common standards on health and safety that are based on global best practices.
Other Ministers reiterated the key concept of adopting a holistic approach to protecting the safety, health and well-being of employees. Hawazi Daipi, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education noted that with Singapore’s aging population and increasing life expectancy, all organizations have to put in place holistic intervention programs to ensure health and safety and a sustainable workforce.
With CCOHS recognized as a global leader whose expertise, infrastructure and capacities are viewed as true strengths, I was there to present evidence and data supporting the integration of health and safety with the business processes of an organization. It is always encouraging to see the enthusiasm that other countries show in learning about CCOHS’ experiences and approach to prevention programs. It is a competitiveness issue for organizations. For a robust management system to exist, you have to consider OSH as part of the normal decision-making process with all employees. If it is seen as a separate program, it will not result in a cultural shift in the workplace because it will not become part of the normal decision-making process of the organization and will be perceived by management as part of the problem instead of part of the solution. What is necessary is worker engagement through leading by example, communication, coaching and management commitment.