Workplace safety experts to meet here

In a bid to boost its global standing as a leader in the field, Singapore is preparing to welcome its largest gathering of international workplace safety experts.

About 3,000 foreign experts on occupational safety and health are expected at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in September 2017.

It is the first time the meeting is being held in South-east Asia and the third time in Asia. The two past Asian meetings were in Seoul in 2008 and New Delhi in 1993.

The meeting, which was started by the International Labour Organisation and the International Social Security Association in 1955, is held every three years. It has become the world's largest event for occupational safety and health experts.

Singapore won a bid last year to host the meeting and a multi-agency team, led Mr Ho Siong Hin, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), was formed to organise the meeting.

An MOM spokesman said yesterday that the meeting will help practitioners to develop new policies, programmes and initiatives to improve safety and health in global workplaces .

The MOM declined to elaborate on its preparations or the budget for the meeting, saying that more information will be made available around the end of next month.

The Straits Times understands that the ministry has booked 45,000 sq m of space - about the size of five football fields - at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for a three-day exhibition and an area about the size of two football fields to hold the four-day meeting from Sept 3 to 6, 2017.

It has also set up a website - www.safety2017singapore.com - and met interested conference organisers last week for a briefing.

According to a draft programme that MOM gave to interested conference organisers that The Straits Times saw, an unusual feature is a media festival at which films on workplace safety will be screened.

The conference organiser has to set up a cinema "to provide a complete cinematic experience... (with) items such as popcorn and drinks in the venue", said the MOM as it spelt out its requirements.

Latest official statistics, released two weeks ago, showed that workplace injuries over a six-month period have fallen from 242 per 100,000 workers in January to June 2008 to 177 per 100,000 workers in the first six months of this year.

When contacted, the MBS said that it is looking forward to hosting the event. "We have a strong team of professionals who will work closely with the event organisers to create a unique meeting programme," said a spokesman.

Besides foreign experts, some foreign workers' groups are asking to be involved in the meeting.

"An international meeting on workplace safety in Singapore will be incomplete without the voice of non-government organisations other than that of the unions," said Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, which focuses on migrant workers' rights and welfare.

He said: "We can share the research that we have done, for example, on how fatigue affects workers' safety in the workplace."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Workplace safety experts to meet here'. Print Edition | Subscribe