Friday 14 September 2012

CultureSAFE programme to drive next phase of workplace safety and health

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 12 Sep 2012

The Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) has launched a new programme called CultureSAFE to create a culture that places workers' safety and health first.

Announcing this at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference 2012 on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Singapore is committed to making the nation one of the safest and healthiest workplaces in the world.

"Employers must always look after their people. It is their most basic responsibility to make sure that everyone is able to return home to their family safe and sound, everyday," said Mr Tharman. "Serious accidents are almost always avoidable and always inflict a high cost."

Mr Tharman said since Singapore implemented the performance-based Workplace Safety and Health regime, there has been a steady decline in the workplace fatality rate -- from 4.9 deaths per 100,000 employed persons in 2004 to 2.3 in 2011.

It aims to reduce the workplace fatality rate to less than 1.8 by 2018.

Mr Tharman said to achieve this, Singapore has to go beyond company- and industry-specific practices.

He said it is time to embark on the next phase in the workplace safety and health journey.

Mr Tharman pointed out that the development of the CultureSAFE model took a few years and went through many rounds of industry validation.

The International Advisory Panel for Workplace Safety and Health has strongly supported the initiative.

On its part, the government will support the programme and focus on helping small and medium enterprises embark on CultureSAFE so that they can raise workplace safety and health standards and in the process, increase productivity.

Mr Tharman said the government will provide S$8 million to co-fund the cost of the CultureSAFE programme for SMEs over the next three years.

The CultureSAFE Fund will co-fund up to S$30,000 for each company to cover the consultancy and implementation cost of the programme. 

Companies will also get a safety roadmap with the help of CultureSAFE.

The director of Megastone Holdings, Chua Chian Hong said his company has taken advantage of the co-funding.

"We conducted a survey amongst our 500 employees to find out where the shortcomings are and what needs to be improved," said Mr Chua.

Mr Tharman said in economies like Singapore, where there is a permanent shortage of workers, companies now have a compelling reason to invest in improvements to achieve this.

"To be a vibrant global city, we must ensure that work is safe, decent and fulfilling for all workers," said Mr Tharman. 

"Every worker must be able to trust the workplace and feel good about it, to build up their abilities over time, to remain employable as they grow older and to enjoy retirement without work-related illnesses," he added.

President and CEO of NatSteel Holdings, Vivek Kamra, agreed that management has to lead by example in promoting workplace health and safety.

"We mandate that all of us make safety visits twice a week on the shop floor personally (and) we conduct safety interviews," he said.

Mr Tharman also highlighted the need to ensure that the workplace is safe and friendly for older workers.

In Singapore, the employment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 has gone up from 44 per cent in 2001 to about 59 per cent in 2010.

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