SINGAPORE - 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 HPB, has seen 10,000 workers from shopping malls, eateries, hotels, entertainment outlets and offices participate in workplace health programmes over the first 10 months of the initiative, the health authority said on Thursday (Oct 4).
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 participate in exercise sessions, cooking classes and wellness workshops as well as receive free health screenings.
A second precinct partnership for the downtown business district kicked off in November last year, while three more precincts will join in over the next year, according to the HPB's director for workplace health and outreach 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.
Mr Zaqy said that the precinct approach helps smaller businesses with fewer resources.
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, said Dr Khor.
"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 is a smoker, and a fifth of those surveyed cut back by an average of six sticks a day.
Orchard Road will go smoke-free by the end of the year, when smoking will be allowed only at designated smoking areas.
Orba's executive director Steven Goh said the association helps by acting as a large human resources department.
"For HR departments to organise an outing, for example, it's additional work. But we approach (companies) and say you don't need to do anything, we will organise everything for you and create something fun for the community," he said.
The association aims to increase the participation rate by 25 per cent next year by involving more back-of-house staff, for example, said Mr Goh.
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."