Beefing up workplace safety

31 Aug 2011

The extended Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act will come into effect from Sept 1, covering all industries and benefiting 1.4 million workers across Singapore.

Some of the new sectors that will be included under the extended Act include education, retail and business services. These sectors contributed to 29% of all workplace injuries and 6% of workplace deaths in 2010. By extending the Act to all workplaces, the government hopes to reduce fatality incident rates to less than 1.8 per 100,000 workers by 2018.

Under the Act, employers must ensure that they provide employees with clear plans and resources to keep their workplace safe and remove or control risks at work. It also requires employees to follow safety procedures and report unsafe work conditions or behaviours.

Companies across Singapore are preparing themselves to meet these safety requirements. SMRT for example, has programmes lined up to educate, train and prepare staff on the extended Act. It is using various communication platforms to educate staff, including awareness talks, safety circulars and training, said Neo Seng Lee, Acting Deputy Director, Safety Services of SMRT. The company is also conducting safety audits and has established guidelines and procedures for risk assessments and incident reporting.

According to Neo, some of the common safety hazards that SMRT employees face include slips, trips and falls as well as ergonomics-related injuries. To prevent this, the company has appointed safety ambassadors. “Throughout the company, we have appointed safety ambassadors in every department. They engage fellow colleagues, conduct audits and ensure compliance,” said Neo.

Over at NTUC Learning HUB, a WSH committee has developed safety and health guidelines. The company has also been educating its employees about the extension of the Act through training. “The team itself has also been beefed up in terms of skills through training in risk assessment and management. This in turn helped us to put in control measures to alleviate the risks identified in the company,” said Bryan Quek, General Manager, Trades & Industry Skills of NTUC Learning Hub.

The government has been giving assistance to help smaller companies adopt and implement risk management strategies. The Risk Management Assistance Fund (RMAF) for example, helps SMEs defray the cost of engaging consultants to build in-house risk management capabilities. The Ministry of Manpower and the WSH Council have also been conducting free clinics to educate employers and employees alike.

Employers agree that WSH Act 2018 will be useful in ensuring that companies will take workplace safety seriously. “Many organisations especially those low-risk ones have been taking a back seat when it comes to safety. However, we have seen that a small risk can potentially cause loss of lives. Therefore, we are of the view that this Act will ‘force’ organisations to have a safer working environment,” concludes Quek.

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Commented by: Yogesh Tadwalkar at 20 Sep 2011 09:35 PM Report this comment

Thanks for sharing this important update with the HR fraternity in Singapore.

As President of the Ergonomics Society of Singapore (ERGOSS) and a practicing ergonomist in Singapore, I wanted to add that in the last few days, we received many queries - especially from organizations with office set-up - about how they can go about complying with the WSH Act.

The ambiguity stems from the fact that while the WSH Act says 'What' to do...e.g. Risk Assessment; it does not clearly state what exactly to do.

While the government's intention behind leaving it open-ended is prudent - so each employer can think of their own work context and take relevant safety measures befitting this context - this has also created a bit of confusion and uncertainty.

Here's a practical tip for Office-based organizations. To start complying with the act, conduct Ergonomics Assessments for your staff. Ergo assessments is an effective tool to identify and mitigate risks such as musculo-skeletal disorders and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) - which are often the primary cause of absenteeism, low productivity and medical claims.

A typical ergo assessment costs between $100-S$200 and takes about 1 hour per employee.

The Ergonomics Society of Singapore can offer further help and advice for any company looking to comply with the WSH Act and conduct Ergo Assessments. We can be reached at or H/P (65) 9847 5652.

Warm Regards.

Yogesh Tadwalkar
President, Ergonomics Society of Singapore (ERGOSS)
Commented by: Debra Scudder at 12 Feb 2013 10:59 PM Report this comment
I am Group HR Officer for Ikon Science, based in the UK but with responsibility for our Kuala Lumpur office. Could someone point me in the right direction to get a standard Health & Safety at Work Statement that I can include in our Employee Handbook.

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