More workers to enjoy free exercise, wellness sessions

Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad (in blue) and Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor (in pink), who co-chair a committee on workplace safety and health, participating in a stretching exercise with workers fr
Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad (in blue) and Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor (in pink), who co-chair a committee on workplace safety and health, participating in a stretching exercise with workers from Royal Plaza on Scotts at its restaurant Carousel yesterday.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS CHONG

Precincts beyond downtown business district and Orchard Road to join HPB efforts

More workers will soon have access to free exercise sessions and wellness programmes, thanks to efforts by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Orchard Road, the first precinct to tie up with the HPB, has seen 10,000 workers from shopping malls, eateries, hotels, entertainment outlets and offices participating in workplace health programmes over the first 10 months of the initiative, the health authority said yesterday.

The Work Great on a Great Street scheme, a collaboration between the HPB and Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), was launched a year ago. The initiative, which will be extended until the end of next year, has seen workers participating in exercise sessions, cooking classes and wellness workshops, as well as receiving free health screenings.

A second precinct partnership for the downtown business district kicked off in November last year, while three more precincts will join next year, according to the HPB's director for workplace health and outreach, Mr Simon Lim. Their locations will be revealed at a later date.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor and Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad, who co-chair a committee on workplace safety and health, said efforts have thus far been focused on workplace "clusters", in partnership with building management and developers.

Since 2014, its programmes have reached more than 320,000 workers across 50 clusters. The committee is on track to reach its goal of 435,000 workers by 2020 and has plans to expand the precinct model, said Dr Khor.

HELPING SHIFT WORKERS

With shift work, you have unstructured work patterns; if you don't bring these programmes to their doorstep, many of them would find it difficult to find time or (a place) to exercise.

DR AMY KHOR, Senior Minister of State for Health, noting about 60 per cent of workers in Orchard Road are from "hard-to-reach" sectors such as retail and hospitality.

Mr Zaqy added that the precinct approach helps smaller businesses with fewer resources.

Dr Khor said that of the 60,000 workers in Orchard Road, about 60 per cent are from "hard-to-reach" sectors such as retail, hospitality, food services and entertainment.

"With shift work, you have unstructured work patterns; if you don't bring these programmes to their doorstep, many of them would find it difficult to find time or (a place) to exercise," she said, adding that activities are tailored to the needs of specific workers.

According to an HPB survey of 200 Orchard Road workers who participated in the programmes and activities, half were overweight and 13 per cent reported an improvement in their body mass index over the 10 months. Three out of 10 workers in the precinct are smokers, and a fifth of those smokers surveyed cut back by an average of six sticks a day.

Orba executive director Steven Goh said the association aims to raise the participation rate by 25 per cent next year by involving more back-of-house staff, for example.

 
 

Sales supervisor Hasnah Hassan, 59, who has been working at department store Metro for more than 30 years, said that standing for eight hours a day, six days a week has led to issues such as knee pain, but these have been eased by participating in weekly stretching sessions.

She said: "After eight hours of work, many of us go home and have housework and other things to do, so it is good that this initiative lets us do some exercise at work."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'More workers to enjoy free exercise, wellness sessions'. Print Edition | Subscribe