05 May 2014

Let’s work together towards a safer and healthier workforce

05 May 2014

Dear employers and employees,

We spend a significant part of our day at work. It is therefore worth our time, to look around our workplaces and see if there are activities that we do which can harm ourselves and our colleagues. This is not to start off my open letter to employers and employees on an ominous note, but rather, stems from an increasing awareness that good workplace health is as important as tackling safety hazards. 

According to a study done by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Institute, the cost impact from work-related injuries and ill health was SGD$10.45 billion in 2011 alone. This is equivalent to 3.2 per cent of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year. While the figure is quite alarming, allow me to share with you why we should pay more attention in keeping our employees safer and healthier.

Why it is important to focus on safety and health risks at work?

We have traditionally focused more on tackling safety hazards, as these are more visible and tangible. However, we should recognise that workplace health affects a worker’s well-being and his capacity to work. These issues of health, safety and well-being of employees are interconnected, and will inevitably grow with an ageing workforce. 

We are also facing new challenges in workplace health, as Singapore’s economy is evolving from traditional industries to higher value-add and service-based industries. With that comes a new and emerging trend in work-related health conditions such musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions. This shift from traditional occupational diseases is a trend observed in developed countries. 

In Singapore, we have seen a rise in the number of work-related musculoskeletal disorder in 2013 (check out the Workwise infographic on musculoskeletal disorders). How many times have we heard colleagues complain that they suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome? This has become increasingly common. And with the inclusion of back injury cases due to poor ergonomics risks, work-related musculoskeletal disorders were the second leading occupational disease after noise induced deafness.

What can we do to make our workplaces safer and healthier?

Our workplaces can only be fully safe for employees, if we address the issues of safety, health and well-being of the workforce in totality. While many of us have adopted WSH as a fundamental component of our business, we must also put in place initiatives for workplace safety and occupational health equally to ensure that all aspects of safety, health and employees’ well-being are looked into. It is the right thing to do as a responsible employer.

As for employees, you must also take ownership of your well-being at work and cultivate safe work behaviour. For example, you can help to spot the potential hazards and risks related to your work activities and suggest improvements. You should also give feedback proactively to your management about bad practices and other unsafe activities at the workplace, so that the workplace can be improved to better cater to your well-being.

Commit to a safe and healthy workplace today

The commitment of all stakeholders, including employers and employees, is critical for us to create safe and healthy workplaces – workplaces that are not only free from safety hazards, but are also conducive to employees’ well-being. More than 800 business leaders and WSH professionals from across the region will gather at the biennial Singapore WSH Conference 2014 on 7 and 8 May to engage in discussions on the Conference’s theme “Integrating Safety and Health: Towards a Holistic Approach”.

A platform for like-minded business leaders and decision makers, the Conference aims to highlight the importance of adopting a holistic approach towards WSH and how you can better integrate safety and health at your workplace. There is no better time than now to start thinking about and implementing how we can improve the lives and well-being of our employees. Let’s work together to create safer and healthier workplaces for us and our employees.

Yours sincerely,
Lai Poon Piau
Executive Director, Workplace Safety and Health Council
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