Online bite-sized workplace safety courses to be piloted for migrant workers

The pilot initiative is meant to uphold higher workplace safety and health standards among migrant workers here. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A pilot initiative offering online bite-sized courses on workplace safety for migrant workers was announced on Sunday (May 29) by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC).

The initiative is meant to uphold higher workplace safety and health standards among migrant workers here.

Workers can take the courses at their own pace during their free time to learn and refresh their knowledge. More details will be announced at a later date, said NTUC.

This initiative comes after the recent spate of workplace fatalities, which led to a nationwide call for companies to implement a safety time-out to review existing workplace safety and health guidelines.

Currently, all migrant workers must obtain a safety certification either upon arrival in Singapore or when they renew their work passes.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong, who is also MP for Radin Mas, said workplace accidents can be avoided if there is adequate knowledge and awareness of safety and health measures.

He added: "It is our collective responsibility to make sure that our migrant workers are able to work in an environment that is safe and help them stay up to date on the latest safety measures to protect themselves."

Mr Yong was guest of honour at a May Day celebratory event on Sunday at the MWC Recreation Club near Pioneer Road to recognise migrant workers for their hard work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 6,000 workers attended the event, which included a prize-giving ceremony for the winners of a photo contest, the distribution of care packs, cash vouchers and bento meals, and a cricket competition.

Mr Sivanthaperumal Bhagathsingh, 29, a quality inspector at a shipyard, was glad to see so many people gathering, including workers from different dormitories. He was captain of the Star Boys cricket team, which came in third place.

"When we get to play cricket, our minds are more fresh. And we are able to forget our work pressures, family pressures and stress, and we are able to enjoy ourselves," he said. He has worked in Singapore since April 2018.

Another migrant worker, Mr Miah Md Kaum, 24, who works as a welder, came in 10th place in the photo contest, winning $160 worth of FairPrice vouchers. He has worked in Singapore since September 2017.

"For two years, we could not go out. We could sit down at only one place, makan (eat) and sleep only," he said. So he was happy to meet many friends at the event, he added.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong (standing, fourth from left) with MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, MWC executive director Bernard Menon, MWC head of unions and projects Sathish Naidu, and the champions of the cricket competition held at MWC Recreation Club on May 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

At a separate event on Sunday, more than 400 migrant workers received free dental health screening under a partnership between non-profit organisation HealthServe and the National University of Singapore.

HealthServe, together with the university's dentistry faculty and the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, held the screening at Terusan Recreation Centre in Jurong for the migrant worker community.

HealthServe said it has seen an increase in demand for affordable healthcare services, particularly dental care, by low-wage migrant workers here in the past year. Workers usually wait until they return home to get cheaper dental treatment. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they could not do so, resulting in pent-up demand now.

At the event, workers got free check-ups by dentists and were taught oral hygiene by dental students. Dental screening at a private clinic usually costs between $70 and $150.

More than 400 migrant workers received free dental health screening at Terusan Recreation Centre on May 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Dr Jeremy Lim, vice-chairman of HealthServe and an associate professor at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said: "Early preventive care is crucial as poor oral health, besides the immediate problems of cavities and infection, has also been shown to be associated with increased risks of chronic conditions such as poor diabetes outcomes."

Mr Islam Mohammad Shariful, 27, a processing mechanic who came to Singapore in 2014, had his first dental check-up on Sunday. He had previously discovered tooth decay and felt some sensitivity when eating cold food but did not seek treatment as he was concerned about cost.

"Without this event, we wouldn't know about our dental problems. We learnt how to properly brush our teeth. I will definitely be applying this in future," he said.

Also on Sunday, the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) announced a free financial literacy programme for foreign maids here. It will be held in Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Over five weekly sessions, they will learn about financial planning and saving, loan management and how they can help with their families' finances back home. Seventy-five maids attended their first session on Sunday.

Madam Helen Tan, chairman of Fast's training and development committee, said it plans to train 200 maids under the pilot programme, which ends in November.

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