Friendship the key to workplace safety

Mr Muhammad and Mr Saw both won Gold Workplace Safety and Health awards from the Singapore Manufacturing Federation. Both men emphasise to their workers that it's not worth it to risk safety for increased productivity.
Mr Muhammad and Mr Saw both won Gold Workplace Safety and Health awards from the Singapore Manufacturing Federation. Both men emphasise to their workers that it's not worth it to risk safety for increased productivity.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

This approach ensures workers won't ignore safety when unsupervised, says award winner

Mr Muhammad Ruzaini Abd Jalil's strategy for building a safety culture among his workers is simple: Befriend them.

In his four years as a supervisor, none of his workers has suffered any workplace accidents, which he attributes to a strong focus on safety and a refusal to compromise safety for the sake of productivity.

The 26-year -old is one of two winners of the Gold Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards for Supervisors given out by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) yesterday.

Supported by the Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Council, the SMF organises an annual WSH Awards competition to raise awareness of workplace safety and health, and to recognise good ideas and best practices.

"If you don't have a strong relationship with your workers, they may follow safe practices only when you're in front of them. Behind your back, they might try to take shortcuts, for example, if they want to go home earlier," said Mr Muhammad, who works for Multiheight Scaffolding.

He added: "One-to-one interaction is very important. I try to get to know them as friends, and make sure to commend them for good practices."

Mr Muhammad said there have been near misses.

One incident involved three men pushing a trolley laden with scaffolding components while it was raining. Regulations had stated that the trolley ought to be pushed by four men, and never in the rain.

One man lost his footing and nearly had his foot crushed by the heavy trolley. Luckily, his co-workers were able to stop it in time.

On Thursday, The Straits Times reported that a construction worker was believed to have been electrocuted at a worksite in Alexandra Terrace. It was the latest of 33 worksite fatalities so far this year.

"The saddest thing is that these accidents can be prevented. The focus on productivity and pushing workers to finish a project on time can compromise their safety," said Mr Muhammad.

His fellow Gold award winner, Mr Eldrick Saw, also 26, agrees.

"There is a balance to be struck between safety and productivity, but if one of my workers gets hurt and is out of commission for two months just because we tried to save 30 seconds, that's not worth it," he said.

Mr Saw works for Halliburton Company, an American multinational corporation.

When he was a supply chain manager about five years ago, he witnessed a co-worker suffer a minor injury after getting his hand caught in machinery.

The worker was only 22, about the same age then as Mr Saw, who was fresh out of university.

Since then, Mr Saw has made safety a top priority and believes in a bottom-up safety culture, with workers looking out for themselves and each other.

"We have a 'family wall' filled with photos of our workers' family members, many of whom live overseas. I always remind them that their loved ones are the reason they must go home safely at the end of the day," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Friendship the key to workplace safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe