Singapore reaffirms its commitment to workplace safety and health

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today urged all to reflect on the importance of workplace safety and health, and to reaffirm Singapore's commitment towards the cause.

He was speaking in recognition of World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which will fall on April 28. The day is marked by the International Labour Organisation to help raise awareness of occupational accidents and diseases around the world.

"Singapore is proud to celebrate the World Day for Safety and Health at Work with the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It reflects our determination to safeguard our workers' well-being and enhance their productive capacity. The ILO estimates that occupational accidents and diseases cost 4 per cent of the world's GDP and takes 6,400 lives daily. We must do our utmost to understand and prevent work-related accidents and occupational diseases," Mr Lee said in a statement released to the press.

"This is a collective effort. Governments must enact the right regulations, and enforce standards of workplace safety and health (WSH) that meet their people's expectations.

"Employers must provide safe and healthy work environments, and foster a safety culture among their staff. Employees must look out for themselves and one another, and take the initiative to improve WSH standards.

"These are cultural issues that take time to change. But through our individual and collective efforts, we can raise WSH practices and thus, our workers' welfare."

He added that Singapore treats WSH very seriously and signed the Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work in 2010 and ratified the ILO Convention 187 in 2012.

"We put in place a national WSH Strategy to raise safety and health standards in our workplaces, in collaboration with our tripartite partners. A WSH Council, comprising industry leaders, works to raise WSH standards throughout the economy. Over the past decade, we have reduced the rate of fatal workplace injuries by more than half," he said.

However, he acknowledged that there is much that countries can learn from one another and that Singapore is in the process of adopting best practices from countries that began their WSH journeys much earlier.

"For example, Singapore established a risk observatory last year. Modelled after the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) risk observatory, it will identify emerging safety and health concerns in Southeast Asia and develop preventive measures," he said.

In addition to learning from other countries, Mr Lee said that Singapore is sharing its experiences with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbours, as part of ASEAN's "Plan of Action" to strengthen its national WSH frameworks.