SINGAPORE - Young people can play a key role in raising awareness about safety and health at the workplace, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said on Tuesday (Sept 5).
There is also a need to better prepare them for the hazards and risks they will face at work, she said, at an international youth congress organised for the first time as part of the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work.
The focus on youth is especially important as those aged 15 to 24 are 40 per cent more likely to suffer occupational injuries at work compared to adult workers, according to International Labour Organisation data, she said.
One reason is that many young workers are temporary or part-time workers, or apprentices, often lacking workplace experience. Health and safety concerns are usually far from their minds, Mrs Teo said in a speech to about 120 young people and other delegates at the congress held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
Mrs Teo highlighted the case of a 22-year-old worker in Singapore who accidentally injected fish vaccine into her palm on her second day of work. She reported the incident to a supervisor hours later, and was just told to monitor her condition.
But it developed into a bacterial skin infection and she had to be hospitalised twice. The Manpower Ministry found the company had failed to brief workers on safety on the first day of work, and did not have risk assessments or safe work procedures in place.
Mrs Teo said efforts are underway to promote a strong safety culture among students, "so that safety and health awareness become ingrained as one is growing up."
For example, the Institute of Technical Education has incorporated 12 workplace safety and health (WSH) courses into its curriculum and the first group of students to take these courses are those who graduated earlier this year.
Last year, the WSH Council also developed an interactive online learning tool for children aged eight to 14 to learn about basic safety and health. More will be done for the 400,000 or so primary and secondary school students in the next three years, through animation and other videos produced by the council, she added.
Mrs Teo also said about 40 young people are in the pioneer batch of Singapore WSH Youth Champions newly appointed by the WSH Council. They will be trained in various safety and health concepts and initiatives that they will share with their peers at roadshows and seminars and during school visits.
She urged them to share their knowledge with those around them and "speak up if you see poor practices at workplaces and even in school laboratories."
As part of the youth congress, which runs from Sunday to Wednesday (Sept 3 to 6), young people from about 30 countries discussed ideas to improve safety and health around the world and created prototypes of these ideas.
These include a mobile app which rates companies' safety performance based on reports submitted by workers, and cartoon videos to educate children and students by showing WSH superheroes helping workers.