Parliament: Erwayne is on crutches but energy firm Sassax finds him 'a great addition'

Mr Erwayne Teo suffered spinal injuries after a motorbike accident and joined Sassax as an operations executive in 2018. To accommodate Mr Teo's mobility limitations, Sassax director Cheang Tsu-fei modified the workplace.
Mr Erwayne Teo suffered spinal injuries after a motorbike accident and joined Sassax as an operations executive in 2018. To accommodate Mr Teo's mobility limitations, Sassax director Cheang Tsu-fei modified the workplace.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - After injuring his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident in 2016, crutches became a way of life for Mr Erwayne Teo.

When he dropped coins on the ground, he would regard it as money lost because he could not safely bend down to pick them up.

Still, the 39-year-old landed a job with global energy and commodities firm Sassax in 2018.

As an operations executive, he prepares contracts and invoices. He is also learning about the different grades of industrial oils by sending samples to clients.

His experience with Sassax was cited by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament to show that people with special needs can be integrated into the workforce by employers willing to accommodate them.

Mr Zaqy added that Mr Teo told him the opportunity motivates him to work harder to "excel just like, or do even better than, a person without special needs".

Mr Teo told The Straits Times on Tuesday (March 5): "I've always been keen to join the oil and shipping industry. However, most positions required experience for the role.

 
 
 
 

"Hence, when SPD (a disability support organisation) offered me this opening through SG Enable, I decided to apply and was accepted."

SG Enable is an agency established by the government that supports people with disabilities..

To accommodate Mr Teo's mobility limitations, Sassax director Cheang Tsu-fei modified the workplace.

The partitions and meeting room walls were removed to create an open space for him to move around easily. Shelves were added for his convenience and the printer was placed nearer to his work space. The manual lock of the office door was replaced with a digital lock.

Said Ms Cheang: "It was actually a smooth process for us in assimilating Erwayne into the Sassax environment and work culture. He was very eager to learn and was very enthusiastic.

The bulk of the cost to change Mr Teo's work space came from the Job Redesign Grant, which pays for 90 per cent of the costs, up to $20,000 per employee with special needs.

Said Ms Cheang: "Erwayne is an extremely hard-working person, able to think analytically and is very sociable - all traits that are needed for an operations executive.

"Handling shipping and cargo operations requires him to think on his feet quickly and solve issues whenever our vessels or cargoes face any issue. With our rapidly expanding business, he is a great addition to the company."

She has given Mr Teo more responsibilities, like the power to make some commercial decisions on shipping and cargo operations. She also gave him a pay rise after a year.