Thursday, September 21, 2017

Directors of Workplace Safety and Health Training Providers jailed for fraudulent practices

Two Directors of Workplace Safety and Health Training Providers were jailed for fraudulent practices under the Workplace Safety and Health Act in 2017. Mr. Sellachamy Somasundaran, Director of Maha Safety Training Centre Pte Ltd and Mr. Md Abu Zahin Mostafizur Rahman, Director of Pioneer Skill Training Centre Pte Ltd had both pleaded guilty to fraudulently issuing the “Building Construction Supervisor Safety (“BCSS”) course certificates/safety passes without conducting any lessons and assessments.
In the first case, Mr. Sellachamny Somasundaran was charged with forging 20 BCSS course certificates/safety passes between September 2015 and December 2015 and had pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced on 7 August 2017 to a jail sentence of 10 months.
In the second case, Mr. Md Abu Zahin Mostafizur Rahman was charged with forging 14 BCSS course certificates/safety passes between October 2015 and December 2015 and had pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced on 15 Sep 2017 to a jail sentence of 10 months. 
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had since cancelled all the fraudulent BCSS records uploaded by the two Training Providers. The BCSS is a course for workers appointed to take on the construction supervisory role. The 34 hour course equips the workers with construction related knowledge on safety and health issues and how, as supervisors, they can help to implement the safety and health measures at the workplaces.
MOM takes a very serious view of any breach to the Workplace Safety and Health Act as workplace safety and health issues directly affects worker’s lives, safety and health. Regular audits on the training providers are conducted to ensure full compliance and competency of the training providers. Anyone who is aware of any malpractice by any training provider can notify MOM immediately at

Source: WSH Bulletin by WSH Council, Singapore 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Common hazards in construction sites

1. Open sides of buildings

The most common hazard in the construction site is that open sides of buildings or structures are not sufficiently barricaded, if at all. This could potentially lead to fatalities. Even if it does not result in fatality, it will result in serious injury.

Worker at top level - no edge barricade; the worker was not even wearing safety harness.
Open sides during formwork erection
2. Unsafe work platform
It is very common to see workers using single metal deck as their work platform, especially during the erection of formwork. A single metal deck may not be strong enough to take the weight of the worker and may cave in. It is also possible that the worker may lose balance and fall down.

Makeshift work platform
3. Floor openings not properly covered
Another common hazard in construction sites is that the floor openings are not properly covered. Sometimes, a piece of plywood is placed over the opening, but it is not secured. It thus becomes easily dislocated and the floor opening becomes exposed. At other times, flimsy piece of plywood is used, which can give way under the weight of a person.
It is also common that openings for pipes are not covered - the thinking is that it is too small for someone to fall through. However, it must be remembered that the second biggest killer in worksites is being hit by falling object.

Can you see the floor opening? Just waiting for someone to step on it...
Opening on the floor for pipes, but anything could drop through them.
 4. Protruding objects on the floor
It is very common to find nails and rebars protruding from the floor. These pose tripping hazards and can have serious consequences.

One worker tripped and fell on the protruding rebar, missed the spine by a mere few centimetres. (See the blood in the drain)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One of the Best Safety Speeches Ever By Alcoa CEO

Sometimes the best way to affect large-scale change is to focus on changing one important habit, what Charles Duhigg calls a keystone habit. Here is the story of Alcoa’s transformation.

One October day in 1987, the new CEO of the Aluminum Company of America, or Alcoa, took to the stage of a ballroom in a New York hotel. Paul O’Neill had been a surprise choice for head of one of the world’s biggest aluminium product manufacturers. The former US Government bureaucrat was virtually unknown in the ranks of Wall Street, and the company’s many investors were nervous about his ability to stem the losses Alcoa had recently accumulated by launching unprofitable new lines. To address this unease, Alcoa had decided to gather together prominent investors and stock analysts and formerly introduce its new leader to them.
Standing on the ballroom stage, the 51-year-old O’Neill looked every bit the chief executive – trim and taut, with a dignified head of white hair and a warm, confident manner. The audience relaxed. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief that said, ‘Everything is going to be OK’. Then O’Neill opened his mouth.

‘I want to talk to you about worker safety’, he said. ‘Every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work. Our safety record is better than the general American workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and machines that can rip a man’s arm off. But it’s not good enough. I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.’
The audience’s relief turned into confusion. This was not what they were accustomed to at such events. Where was the promise to raise profits and lower costs? Where was the passionate criticism of corporate regulations and taxes? Where were all the comforting buzzwords like ‘synergy’, ‘alignment’, ‘rightsizing’ and ‘co-opetition’? What was all this talk of worker safety? Wasn’t that something that someone who was in favour of regulation might say?
O’Neill continued, seemingly oblivious to his listeners’ reactions: ‘Before I go any further, I want to point out the safety exits in this room. There’s a couple of doors in the back, and in the unlikely event of a fire or other emergency, you should calmly walk out, go down the stairs to the lobby, and leave the building’.
The comments were greeted with a deafening silence. The confusion had become outright bewilderment. One investor, remembering O’Neill’s stint in Washington in the 1960s, thought, ‘Guy must have done a lot of drugs’. Then, tentatively, hands started going up. In a desperate attempt to find familiar ground, people started asking about capital ratios and inventories and the like.
‘I’m not certain you heard me’, O’Neill said. ‘If you want to understand how Alcoa is doing, you need to look at our workplace safety figures. If we bring our injury rates down, it won’t be because of cheerleading or the nonsense you sometimes hear from other CEOs. It will be because the individuals at this company have agreed to become part of something important. They’ve devoted themselves to creating a habit of excellence. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing our habits across the entire institution. That’s how we should be judged.’
After the presentation, many analysts called their clients and advised them to sell all their stock in Alcoa – immediately. One of them told a client, ‘The board put a crazy hippie in charge and he’s going to kill the company’. It would turn out to be the worst financial advice those analysts ever gave.
A year later, Alcoa’s profits would hit a record high. Thirteen years later, on O’Neill’s retirement, the firm’s annual net income would be five times greater than it had been when the CEO was hired. His company would also be one of the safest in the world.
‘I knew I had to transform Alcoa’, O’Neill would later explain. ‘But you can’t order people to change. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.’
O’Neill concentrated on changing one influential, or keystone, habit throughout his organisation – safe practice – and this had a domino effect, causing many other habits to change too. For the better.

Sourced from Charles Duhigg (2012), The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Random House, New York.

So what made O'Neill's safety speech one of the best in the 20th century?
He started with why.  As Simon Sinek says in the brilliant book, Start with a Why, great leaders communicate from the inside out.  He started with a powerful "why".  O'Neill's speech certainly got the attention of his audience.  He then moved to "how" they were going to improve safety and then the "what".  Other leaders communicate the "what", "how" and then the "why".  It would have been easy (and expected) for him to have just talked about improving sales and reducing costs (what) and then "how: they would do it.  This would have kept shareholders and share brokers happy.  Instead, he chose to talk about safety and become the champion for Alcoa workers.
One Behaviour Change at a Time
As quoted in The Power of Habits, O’Neill said, “you can’t order people to change. That’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company”.
He chose improving safety as the key habit to bring the entire company together.  He chose a habit that would have everyone in alignment - unions and managers.  And it meant total operational transformation.
Humans can only learn and remember so much information at once.  The more information you give people – the more they can get paralyzed by it. According to Chip and Dan Heath from Made to Stick, creating a memorable message is all about stripping an idea down to its core.
O'Neill did this brilliantly when he focused the workforce on one aspect - safety.  And then he made this memorable by creating the tagline "Zero injuries".
The Power of the Group
But what he also did rather skilfully was to encourage group behaviour.   He encouraged Alcoa workers to to consider the safety of the group rather than themselves.  He rallied the workforce to work together for a common goal.
Humans see themselves in terms of other people and groups.  Evolution has taught us that it is beneficial to live in tribes, where we can share out the work of daily survival. 
O'Neill harnessed the strong human need for group identity to build a thriving organisation. The trick in using group identity when wanting staff to change behaviour or embrace a new goal is to word it so they make a decision based on what’s best for the group.  Activating peer pressure is an effective way to get a group to persuade others to act in a certain way
And you'll notice that O'Neill never used the word "I" in his speech.  Saving lives wasn't about him. It was about the group - it was about the Alcoa workforce.  He also cleverly used a shareholder meeting, to let his staff know, that he wasn't there to increase shareholder returns.  He was there to improve their quality of life, to ensure that they would arrive home safely at the end of the day.  By launching his first speech to outsiders, he powerfully communicated to staff, just how committed he was to improving their workplace.  That he could be trusted.  That he was on their side.
He even took this further.  According to Tim O'Bryan, in an article titled "Analytical Decision Making and the Alcoa Transformation", O'Neill introduced a new companywide policy that whenever someone was injured, that the unit president had to report it to O’Neill within 24 hours and present a plan for making sure it never occurred again.
This opened up the flow of communication.  Workers told their floor managers who told the vice president about injuries, but also to raise warnings when they saw a potential problem.  A suggestion box was filled with ideas for solutions, so that if the vice president requested a plan, a collection of suggestions was submitted.  
Spare No Expense on Safety
O’Neill believed that the best way to keep employees staff was to discover why injuries were occurring in the first place.  This was done by studying what was going wrong in the  manufacturing process.  Employees received training about quality control and how to work more efficiently.  By ensuring that employees developed the habit to do tasks right in the first place, their work became safer. 
Starting with his inaugural speech, Paul O'Neill transformed Alcoa into an efficient, open communication workplace that was the safest aluminium company on earth.  By transforming workplace safety into a daily habit, O'Neill improved efficiency and sales.  By taking care of the "why", he took care of the "how" and "what".

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WSH (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013 & WSH (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013 (WAH Regulations) have been gazetted and published on 15 April 2013. It will come into operation on 1 May 2013.

About the new Regulations

The key provisions in the new Regulations are:
(a) Fall Prevention Plan (FPP) – A specific provision mandates the establishment and implementation of a FPP in accordance with any Approved Code of Practice issued by the WSH Council. This provision will only be effective on 1 May 2014 to allow industry time to build up their capability;
(b) Permit-to-work System (PTW) – A specific part pertaining to the control of work at height where a person could fall from a height of more than 3 metres. This will also be effective on 1 May 2014 to allow industry time to have people trained and qualified to implement the PTW system;
(c) Training of workers, supervisors and other WAH personnel – Training requirements for work at height personnel are emphasised to ensure effective conduct and oversight of work performed at heights;
(d) Work on Roof and Fragile surface – Specific provisions on safe working on roof as well as working near fragile surface are included to require persons working there to be more vigilant; and
(e) Industrial Rope Access System – Due to its high-risk nature, a specific part has been included to address this area of concern.

The scope of coverage of the proposed Regulations will be in two phases, as follow:
1 May 2013
- Comes into force and applicable only to factories.
1 May 2014
- Coverage will be expanded to all workplaces
- Establishment and implementation of a FPP for workplaces specified in the Schedule
- Implementation of a PTW system for work at height where a person could fall from a height of more than 3 metres.

The WSH (Construction) Regulations have also been amended to delete those replica provisions in the new WSH (Work at Heights) Regulations via the WSH (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2013.

Leveraging on available assistance and resources
To help industry get ready for the Regulations, the WSH Council has rolled out various capability building initiatives during the recent Programme-based Enagagement (ProBE) Forum on 4 April 2013. These include:
  • Revised Approved Code of Practice on Working Safely at Heights (LINK) - Includes new chapter on the PTW for WAH, sample templates on FPP and decision flow chart for PTW.
  • Roll out of the enhanced Construction Safety Orientation Course in 1 May 2013 (LINK) - Includes new practical assessment on areas such as WAH.
  • Enhancements to WAH training
    - Workers will be trained in basic WAH knowledge (such as the correct use of a personal fall arrest system) while supervisors will be trained on how to check that all fall preventive measures are in place before work commences.
    - Two new levels (WAH course for Assessor and Managers) will also be offered.
  • A new WAH Train-the-trainer course has been developed to keep trainers up-to-mark on WAH fundamentals and ensure quality of training.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New national standard to get non-domestic users to save water

Source: Today Online

SINGAPORE — The Republic will have a new voluntary national standard to get non-domestic users to save and use water more efficiently.  It does not prescribe water efficiency goals; instead it provides a framework, methodology and set of guidelines to put in place policies, systems and processes to use water more efficiently, which promises to help enterprises achieve water savings and reduce operational costs.

Called Singapore Standard SS 577:2012, it will be launched today by the Singapore Standards Council and PUB, the national water agency. According to the PUB, water demand in Singapore currently stands at about 400 million gallons a day. The non-domestic sector accounts for about 55 per cent of Singapore’s total water consumption and this is expected to increase to about 70 per cent in the next 50 years.

The new standard complements the PUB’s 10% Challenge programme, which encourages non-domestic users to reduce water consumption.  To encourage the adoption of the standard, the agency has enhanced initiatives like the Water Efficiency Fund (WEF) and Water Efficient Building (WEB) certification.

Funding quantum for the WEF — a co-funding scheme — has been increased from 50 per cent to 90 per cent of the total water audit costs, subject to a cap of S$15,000.  The PUB will also co-fund an additional 90 per cent of the upgrading or installation cost for remote metering, subject to a cap of S$15,000.

The WEB certification will now have two more tiers — Gold and Silver — to better recognise exemplary performers in water efficiency, as well as those certified in the new standard.

Workplace fatality rate falls to nine-year low

Source: Today Online

SINGAPORE — The workplace fatality rate dropped to a nine-year low last year, with the number of fatalities falling from 61 in 2011 to 56 last year.

This meant there were 2.1 fatalities per 100,000 employed persons last year, compared to 4.9 fatalities per 100,000 in 2004, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Statistics Report released yesterday showed. However, the number of reported workplace injuries and cases of occupational diseases increased, and the construction sector saw increases in workplace fatalities and cases of major injuries.

Reported workplace injuries went up by 9.8 per cent, leading to an increase of 3.2 per cent in man-days lost from 2011. A total of 18,158 man-days were lost last year. Cases of occupational diseases rose by 18 per cent, from 839 reported in 2011 to 987 last year, mainly due to increased monitoring efforts by the Manpower Ministry to encourage early detection and reporting. Eighty-eight per cent of these were cases of noise-induced deafness.

Meanwhile, the number of work-related falls dropped from 26 cases in 2011 to 17 last year. However, it was still the leading incident type in 2012, accounting for 30 per cent of all fatalities and 40 per cent of all major injuries.

The manufacturing, marine and construction sectors contributed to the majority (79 per cent) of workplace fatalities, similar to the situation in previous years.  These sectors also saw a 17-per-cent increase in both major and minor injuries, and accounted for close to half of all such injuries reported last year.

The WSH Council noted that the construction sector remains “a cause for concern” — it accounted for nearly half of all work fatalities (46 per cent) and one in four major injuries.

The sector’s fatalities rose from 22 in 2011 to 26 in 2012, and saw 153 cases of major injuries last year, up 15 per cent from 2011. CHANNEL NEWSASIA