New Challenges in Workplace Safety and Health
A few global trends affect work safety and health issues and working life, said Deputy Prime Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam during the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Conference held at Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore last September 12-13, 2012.
According to Minister Shanmugaratnam, these global trends include the evolution in the structure of economic activity, the increasing participation of older workers, the continuing advance of technology, and the implications of the global economic slowdown.
He said that the first trend is already far advanced in several countries. Countries have been focused in the reduction of people involved in traditional high-risk sectors. “The incidence of fatal accidents is gradually decreasing, as has been our experience in recent years in Singapore,” Minister Shanmugaratnam added.
The second trend is the ageing population profile in most developed economies. Some countries like Japan have older people who still stay in the workforce to remain active and feel occupied. Japan’s employment rate for those aged 55 to 64 is over 65%, the highest amongst the advanced economies. In Singapore, the employment rate for workers in the 55 to 64 age group has risen from 44 per cent in 2001 to about 59 per cent in 2010.
Minister Shanmugaratnam said that the safety and health demands of older workers are different from those of a younger workforce. He lauded BMW’s plant in Lower Bavaria for its elderly worker-friendly innovations to several of its other plants internationally.
Technological and scientific advances are also global trends that greatly affect work safety. “Research is ongoing internationally on the potential risks of new materials such as nano materials, so that problems if any can be anticipated and measures taken to avoid them,” Mr Shanmugaratnam also said.
A fourth trend is simply that of economic slowdown in the advanced world, and in the global economy.
Minister Shanmugaratnam emphasized that employers must look after their people. “It is the employers’ most basic responsibility to make sure that every employee is able to return home to their family safe and sound, everyday.
Serious accidents are almost always avoidable, and always inflict a high cost.Improving workplace safety and health is both the right thing to do for our people, and a way to raise employee satisfaction and productivity. Innovations in WSH, and building a strong WSH culture, must therefore be a key priority for all businesses,” he added.
The biennial Singapore Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Conference is a significant event that brings together WSH professionals, business leaders and government officials to share best practices, including new technologies, innovations and approaches to WSH.
This year’s conference has the theme “Changing Landscapes, Shaping a Progressive WSH culture.” The conference was co-organised by the WSH Council, the Ministry of Manpower and the WSH Institute. It aims to develop a strong and pervasive WSH culture within businesses and raise WSH standards in Asia.
The Singapore WSH Conference 2012 is supported by strategic partners, including the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), International Labour Organization (ILO), Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO).