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A lot was packed into the two-day conference. The minister for manpower, Lim Swee Say, introduced Singapore's national WSH 2018 Plus plan, which has three priorities: improving WSH performance, strengthening WSH competency and building collective WSH ownership.
This shows that the country's priorities are similar to those across the world. In view of the focus on competency it was great timing to introduce IOSH Blueprint to the delegates and we look forward to supporting those members who accessed it for the first time.
The cost of Singaporean work injuries and ill health in 2011 was equal to 3.2% of GDP
Singapore has made steady progress in workplace safety and health performance over the past ten years. But performance has plateaued over the past three years with a slight upturn in fatalities in 2015. The WSH Institute estimated 1,388 cases of fatal work-related diseases in the country in 2011 (62% occupational cancers) and that the cost of work injuries and ill health in that year was S$10.45bn -- equalling 3.2% of GDP.
Ministry of Manpower (MOM) commissioner Er Ho explained Singapore's challenges: an ageing workforce, migrant workers, moves towards self-regulation and the need to empower industry to raise WSH competence.
The MOM has sought the advice of an international advisory panel (IAP) to help it determine the action needed to advance WSH standards and practices in Singapore. The IAP comprises experts from countries including Germany, the UK, Finland and Australia and offered a nine-point action plan for the island state to achieve its goals. These include raising the competency of frontline supervisors, recognising the learning opportunities and importance of minor injuries and near misses, strengthening the injury prevention and return-to-work focus in work injury compensation arrangements, and encouraging more industry-led initiatives to promote industry ownership of WSH.
These priorities seek to address Singapore's challenges. One of these is the slow growth in the workforce, which is estimated at 0.7% from 2010 to 2020 and nil in the decade after. The need to support the workforce with a positive WSH programme is important to prevent the negative outcome of such statistics. The WSH Council's Total workplace safety and health initiative aims to do this, alongside MOM and others.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) used the event to launch Global Action for Prevention on Occupational Safety and Health (GAP). GAP aims to improve safety and health in SMEs by fostering a global culture of prevention. We met ILO branch chief Nancy Leppink and agreed how we will work together to help ILO deliver it.
The Singapore branch members were excellent hosts to IOSH staff during our visit. Its members have a number of initiatives supporting the national OSH programme across the wider region by exchanging knowledge and inviting them to meetings. It was a pleasure to meet members with such diverse experiences yet a shared passion to drive change. These guys know how to have a good time and I look forward to 2017 when we will work together at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore.
From next month I'll be sharing this column with contributors who will offer different perspectives on issues that are strategically important to the profession.
They revealed there was no decline in domestic spending in the British economy after the vote to leave the European Union in June. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has now rowed back slightly on its pessimism about the initial impact of the Brexit decision, upgrading its UK growth forecast to 1.8% for 2016. Share prices are buoyant and the pound’s post-referendum slide against the dollar has stopped. So far, so good; those who predicted an immediate economic tumble after the referendum have been wrongfooted.
Many of the drivers and some of the teams are lobbying for a new device developed by Mercedes, named the “halo”, to be fitted over the front of car cockpits. The halo is designed to shield drivers from pieces of flying debris, but opinions are divided; Hamilton was quoted as saying it should be optional and that he prefers to take the risk.There is a contrast between apparent personal freedoms being curtailed “because of health and safety” and a society in which people generally feel so safe that they take it for granted and want redress when harm arises.
It’s certainly not because it is a rarefied classification. There was a time when profession was reserved for more obviously learned occupations such as teaching and law. But in the past 50 years it has been extended to encompass those in business support functions including human resources and information technology, whose roles are certainly no more significant than those controlling occupational risk.
One of the major lessons that should have been absorbed from the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago (see p 17) had to be restated forcefully in Lord Cullen’s report on the Piper Alpha drilling rig explosion and fire which took 167 lives. That lesson was that when a regulator gets too close to the industry it polices there is a high risk that its regulation becomes slack.
Causality is easier to evidence where there is physical activity with a demonstrable consequence; the injury or fatality caused by an accident can be seen and investigated. Yet a series of studies and surveys are shedding light on what has become one of the under-reported occupational health issues of our time: sedentariness.In this age of email and the internet, with more of us working from home or in office environments, it is clear a growing proportion of us are sitting down and physically inactive for long periods of the day at work.
Negative headlines, fines, problems and inspections all focus on what is wrong or what people can’t do. These begin to follow us around like a negatively-charged dark cloud. Perhaps we should reflect on our own behaviour because our words and actions can have a profound effect.Positivity is infectious; it’s motivating, engaging and it makes people feel better about themselves. Negativity makes people switch off and turn away. Let’s encourage what people can do rather than say what they can’t.
Safety interventions should be practicable and cost-effective, but too much of an imbalance towards safety does not make economic sense for employers, argues Geoff Vaughan, who suggests ‘gross disproportion’ provides a practical limit.