Training to be safe

There's no doubt that everybody has a part to play in ensuring workplace safety. Businesses are also finding that emphasising workplace safety and health makes good business sense

Workplace Safety and Health awareness in Singapore has increased greatly in recent years. According to the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC), the workplace fatal injury rate has gone down significantly from 4.9 per 100,000 employed persons, in 2004 to 2.1 in 2012. “This would not have been possible without the efforts from all stakeholders, including the industries,” says Lai Poon Piau, Executive Director, WSHC.

Businesses are also increasingly aware that workplace safety and health makes good business sense. A study by the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Institute found that work-related injuries and ill health in 2011 resulted in an estimated S$10.5 billion worth of direct medical costs, productivity loss, human loss to society and potential future earnings foregone for the companies and workers concerned. That’s about 3.2% of the country’s GDP.

The costs borne by employers alone were around S$2.3 billion, with staff turnover, training and loss of worker output contributing to the bulk of that figure.

“When companies focus on workplace safety and health, employees feel more valued,” Lai explains. “This in turns creates higher staff morale, leading to higher staff retention and increased productivity.
“Apart from productivity loss and economic costs, it is the right thing for employers to ensure that their workers go home safely at the end of day,” he adds.

Workplace safety and health is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. “Companies should have in place safety regulations and guidelines for employees working in the premises,” says Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting. “Employees, on the other hand, should also take ownership and undertake instructions with care and diligence.
“Proper procedures should also be put in place to audit personnel in hazard-prone areas and to ensure safety measures are in place,” he adds.

To complement the capability building of companies, more emphasis will be placed on creating industry ownership for workplace health outcomes by WSHC and Ministry of Manpower (MOM), says Teresa Yang, Assistant Vice President – System & Process, Quality, Environmental Health Safety, TÜV SÜD PSB Learning.

Bigger companies (including multinationals) in Singapore are generally more workplace health and safety-savvy compared to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as they tend to have bigger budgets and greater commitment from top management to implement health and safety management systems and measures.

“However, WSHC and MOM are working to get SMEs to adopt workplace safety and health practices through the bizSAFE programmes,” says Yang. “By embarking on the bizSAFE journey, SMEs can progressively establish an effective management system over time.”
 
WSH training solutions
The WSHC organises industry-specific forums regularly to generate health and safety awareness in various industries. “The forums serve as a platform for learning and sharing good practices in the management of workplace safety and health, and are recommended for supervisors, safety professionals, managers and senior management,” Lai explains.
Apart from forums, the WSHC website also has the latest updates and other resources such as guidelines, activity-based checklists, case studies, research, videos and posters.

Private organisations such as Verztec Consulting also conduct health and safety training workshops. One of the most popular courses at Verztec Learning, the Learning solutions arm of Verztec Consulting, is “Safety in the Workplace” – a 60-minute e-learning course or one-day, instructor-led workshop. Objectives include creating a safety committee, identifying and resolving hazards, and devising and reviewing a workplace safety plan.

Apart from this course, Verztec has its very own Safety Induction kiosk call iSafe. It is a highly customisable network solution that allows employees entering secured and hazardous premises to first go through a quick health and safety training course, comprising of an online learning seminar, a video and a quiz section.

“Our solution can be rolled out as a standalone kiosk or a network of multiple kiosks at multiple entry point locations, with a secured link to a backend server platform,” says Goh.

The online learning course and video can also be translated into over 60 languages, allowing foreign workers to select the language of their choice before scanning their pass to launch the video and course.

Company administrators and safety officers can also generate daily or weekly reports on the personal details of employees who have undertaken the course before entry into the premises.

TÜV SÜD PSB Learning offers a comprehensive range of training programmes catering to all levels in an organisation, from front line workers and supervisors to workplace safety and health professionals. These range from professional accreditations to competency-based programmes built on the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) framework.

“Our occupational health and safety trainings in the areas of introduction, implementation, and auditor training allow trainees to benefit from step-by-step guidance from our experts. They gain confidence and the competencies to ensure that the organisation is OHSAS 18001 compliant,” says Susanne Heng, Manager, Strategic Marketing, TÜV SÜD PSB Learning.
 
Reporting workplace accidents
From January 6 this year, employers have been required to report all workplace accidents which render an employee unfit for work for more than three days to MOM. These accidents must be reported within 10 calendar days from the fourth day of medical leave. This is to discourage the practice of breaking up medical leave unnecessarily, which could affect employee’s recovery process and the integrity of the incident reporting framework.

Employers also have to report all work-related traffic accidents involving their employees to the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health. This is to emphasise the employer’s duty under the Workplace Safety and Health Act to manage traffic safety and better track work-related traffic accidents.

“Good policies and processes have to be put in place so as to ensure incidents get reported efficiently and accurately,” says Goh. “These processes have to be consistent and engage people at all levels, from the management team to individual employees.”
Organisations can consider engaging a service provider to update legal compliance and set up training programmes to educate and engage employees, says Raghunathan Chandrakesan, Senior Consultant – Environmental Health Safety, TÜV SÜD PSB Learning.

“It will be useful to involve staff in all health and safety matters, consult them for opinions and desired improvements, and encourage them to contribute ideas,” says Raghunathan. “A service provider may also be able to simplify legal jargons and explain in layman’s terms how workplace safety and health matters affect employees and what they can do to contribute towards the success of the company.”
 
Upping the ante on training
To adequately train organisations in health and safety issues, HR must encourage ownership of their actions at the workplace.

“We have to understand that everybody in the organisation has a part to play in ensuring workplace safety, and to mitigate risks that might lead to unnecessary accidents,” says Goh. “Employees should be encouraged to take ownership of their own workspaces, and to make safer choices on their own.”

“Competitive businesses understand that good health and safety practices enhance business value by creating a good corporate image, increasing productivity, and  reducing disruptions to work,” says Goh. “This strategy encourages employers to seek better understanding of the benefits of good workplace safety and health performance.

“Companies should also be aware of the different means to obtain funding and continue to leverage on new research, technology, methods and business practices to ensure that only the best policies are put in place,” he adds.
 

Casestudy: LWE Pte Ltd bizSAFE Project
 
LWE Pte Ltd is an SME specialising in the installation and termination of electrical cablings and the installation and relocation of light fittings. After conducting risk assessment, the following hazards were identified:
  • Electrical hazard
  • Ergonomic hazard due to repetitive strain disorder
  • Slip, trip and fall hazard
  • Contact with sharp cutting tools
  • Fall from height hazard
Besides safety awareness training such as risk assessment, work safely at height and the safe use of power tools, additional risk control measures were implemented as shown below:
 
Example 1
Description of Work: Cutting of cable using manual cable cutting tool
 
Before
Hazard / Risk:
  • Worker may accidentally injure/cut himself when using the manual cable cutting tool.
  • Awkward position when using the cutting tool
After
Risk Control: Use of battery operated cable cutting tool

Outcomes:
  • Reduce the chances getting cut by the manual cutting tool.
  • Reduce ergonomic hazard due to better handling.
  • Dead-man switch is incorporated to prevent inadvertent activation of the cutting tool.
Results: Reduces risk from medium to low

Example 2
Description of Work: Drilling for installation of work
 
Before
Hazard / Risk:
  • Worker may come in contact with live wire or injure himself if the drilling tool is faulty
After
Risk Control: Use of battery operated drilling tool

Outcomes:
  • Battery operation eliminates tripping hazard and potential electrocution if cutting tool is faulty.
  • Adjustable drilling speed provides better control during drilling operation
Results: Reduces risk from medium to low

 

Innovative WSH campaigns
“Work safely. Your family awaits your return” was the theme of the Workplace Safety and Health campaign for the most recent festive season. The campaign, which ran from December 2013 to February 2014, aimed to reiterate the importance of workplace safety and health so that workers continue to return to their families unharmed.

Working through various channels including television, SMS marketing, radio, online and public roadshows, the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) reached out to various audiences, including the general public and workers across various industries.

In collaboration with popular Singaporean filmmaker Night Owl Cinematics, WSHC has also produced two YouTube webisodes to communicate the importance of working safely in a fun and humorous way. The webisodes show how the Ying Yang Twins, head chef Sikeen and sous chef Nina deal with workplace safety and health issues as they operate in a hectic and stressful kitchen environment during the festive season.

 “We have received generally positive response on the webisodes for the refreshing approach,” Lai Poon Piau, Executive Director, WSHC.

 

Being bizSAFE
The bizSAFE programme is a five-step approach tailored to assist companies build up their workplace safety and health capabilities. By completing the programme, enterprises and companies will not only benefit by acquiring capabilities, they will also be able to implement effective risk management at their workplace to better manage workplace safety.

“Some organisations are even requesting their business partners attain a minimum of bizSAFE Level Three before going into business with them,” says Lai Poon Piau, Executive Director of the Workplace Safety and Health Council.

TÜV SÜD PSB Learning’s bizSAFE portfolio of courses are geared towards developing a pool of business leaders and executives who are aware of the WSH roles and helping organisations build up their WSH capabilities.

“Our bizSAFE Level One course is aimed at improving knowledge, thought and skills for WSH leadership,” says Susanne Heng, Manager, Strategic Marketing, TÜV SÜD PSB Learning. “It not only equips top management with the necessary strategies and tools to carry out these roles to achieve and sustain good health and safety performance; it also serves to alert them to the business case for workplace health and its impact on profitability and productivity.”

The bizSAFE Level Two course is targeted at an organisation’s Risk Management champion. At the end of the course, this officer will be equipped to chart out a risk management implementation plan for the organisation.

BizSAFE Level Three requires companies to fully implement the plan developed in Level Two, and for the plan to be successfully audited by an independent auditor.

“Company-appointed Workplace Safety and Health Management System champions can take advantage of our bizSAFE Level Four course, and learn to develop a workplace safety and health plan for the company,” says Heng.
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