Saturday 28 April 2012

Snappy way to report unsafe work practices

MOM's new app allows users to easily report problems - and send praise
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2012

MEMBERS of the public are being roped in to spot - and report - shortfalls in workplace safety and health with a new cellphone application (app) developed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

When users of Snap@MOM see, for example, a construction worker working at a height without using a harness, they may use their cellphone cameras to snap a shot.

They can next identify their location using the app's Global Positioning System, insert a short description and then hit 'Submit'.

The feedback goes straight to MOM.

If the occupiers of the workplace are registered on the app, they will receive an alert.

The app is available on iPhone and Android devices.

Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said at its launch yesterday: 'We want to build a culture that does not tolerate unsafe work practices.'

The usefulness of the app cuts the other way too: Apart from reporting lapses, the public can send in praise when they see instances of good safety practices.

The app is one of several initiatives introduced with this year's National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign.

The message this year is: 'Stop the assumptions. Stop work accidents.' It will feature in print and television advertisements.

Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council acting chairman Heng Chiang Gnee said: 'The assumption that safety has been taken care of, or is the responsibility of someone else, is a key contributing factor to many accidents.'

The campaign thus hopes to get supervisors and workers alike to stop making such assumptions and take personal responsibility for safety in the workplace.

Another initiative launched under the banner of the campaign is a professional qualification for occupational hygiene officers who oversee workplace safety and health issues.

The holder of the Workforce Skills Qualifications Specialist Diploma in Occupational Hygiene would have been trained in identifying and lowering workplace health and safety risks.

The diploma was developed by the Workforce Development Agency and the WSH Council, in collaboration with MOM.

The pilot batch of 22 occupational hygiene officers graduated yesterday; the target is to have 2,000 people trained in this area by 2018.

Among the graduates was Mr Francis Ong, the vice-president of operations at oil and gas firm Halcyon Offshore. He already oversees the company's workplace health, safety and environment (HSE) issues, but still found the course useful.

'When we study HSE, we tend to go in depth into safety, rather than health or the environment,' he said, adding that the course has taught him about exposure to chemicals and noise-induced deafness, a big problem in his industry.

He has since introduced measures to reduce workers' exposure to noise, such as by putting up noise barriers around those doing work that generates high sound levels.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will also get a helping hand with workplace safety and health issues, with the WSH Council dropping in to run awareness talks and roadshows.

The target is to reach 6,000 SMEs in three years.

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