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Braving New Waves Together: Safety First


Celebrating 40 Years of ASMI
World-Class Industry
Premier Centre For Ship Repair And Conversion
Glowing Prospects For FPSO Conversion
Offshore Bonanza
Specialist Builders
A Complete Maritime Community
Developing Human Capital
Safety First
Leveraging On Technology
Battle For Hearts and Minds



Safety First


Key Thrust

Safety is and always has been a key priority in the marine industry, and a key thrust in the association‘s agenda. The implementation of comprehensive safety and health management programmes to promote safety has brought about a change in the safety landscape in the industry, resulting in a reduction in the number of accidents from its height in the early 1990s.


“A lot of effort has been put into safety initiatives and programmes by industry players. In 2007, in spite of an increased workforce, the absolute number of workplace injuries actually drop,” said Mr Chia.


In 2007, 490 accidents were recorded, as against 829 at their peak in 1994. The accident severity rate (ASR) and accident frequency rate (AFR), which take into account the increased workload, painted an even better picture. The ASR which measures the number of man-days lost per million man hours worked, dropped from 2,174 in 1994 to a low of 180 in 2007 while the AFR, which shows the number of accidents per million man hours worked, eased from 9.6 in 1994 to 1.3 in 2007.


Industry’s Approach to Safety

The industry has always adopted a common and holistic approach to safety. In fact, the drive towards a common safety standard began in the 1970s following the major expansion of the industry. A safety orientation centre was set up by the association at the National Stadium for small yards and sub-contractors located in the Kallang/Tanjung Rhu area. An association-certified safety permit was subsequently introduced in 1983, for contract workers’ entry into the shipyards.


“Standardisation makes sense as an industry, especially with our on-going efforts to optimise and rationalise our workforce deployment. Today, I can have this worker with me; tomorrow he could be working in another shipyard. This mobility of our workforce gives us the flexibility; hence, it is good to have a standard system across the industry. Through ASMI, we streamline a lot. Safety is about culture and culture is about size. You must have a critical mass to effect any mindset change,” said Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, Chairman, ASMI’s Safety Committee, 2005-2009, and Senior General Manager (Operations) of Keppel Shipyard.


Under the government regulations, shipyards are required to establish a safety management system. To assist the industry, ASMI drew up a Safety Management Code in 1995 to provide a framework for shipyards to implement a safety management system. This was followed a few years later with the development of a Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Manual to provide guidelines and references to help industry members improve their SHE standards.


Over the years, seminars, workshops and training programmes have been conducted, and safety checklists, guidelines, handbooks and video programmes produced to drive home the safety message. Training materials focussing on accident case studies was also developed in 2005 to enable the industry to learn from past accidents. Safe work practices and safety innovations are also shared openly through the association in the collective desire to make the shipyard a safe workplace for all.


Mr Bakar shared, “People need to be involved and engaged in safety. One of the efforts that the industry continuously did, to cultivate this, is through our safety innovation programmes.” A Safety Improvement Team Convention was launched in 1998 to provide a platform for workers to share their ideas and experiences on safety and productivity, with awards handed out for the best ideas. The annual convention, renamed as Workplace Safety and Health Innovation Convention, is now in its 11th year.


“When it comes to safety, the shipyards copy shamelessly. We share,” Mr Bakar quipped. This openness and close co-operation in safety within the industry has managed to provide a positive environment and creates the necessary momentum towards safety excellence.


Taking Ownership

In 2002, the industry extended its safety focus from regulations and management systems to embrace behavioural management in order to achieve a higher level of safety consciousness and ownership amongst the workforce. By changing attitudes and behaviour through the Behavioural-based Safety Programme, the industry aimed to build up a safety culture.


“Cultural difference of the workforce is not an issue. In safety, you are talking about skills and mindset. You have to work at it,” said Mr Wong Peng Kin. Workers were encouraged not to take unnecessary risks or shortcuts at work and to ensure that team members do likewise. Supervisors were also developed to lead by example and be role-models for fellow workers to follow.

In 2006, ASMI promulgated six key values in its safety thrusts for the industry – safety mindset, beyond regulations, zero tolerance of safety infringements, eliminating at-risk behaviour, safety ownership and risk management.


Top of the list was to inculcate a mindset with safety as top priority in the workforce. Employers were encouraged to take ownership and go beyond compliance with regulations in implementing safety standards. Supervisors were told not to tolerate safety malpractices. Eliminating at-risk behaviour involves developing observation and intervention skills across the entire workforce.


Training and consultancy efforts were stepped up in 2007 to help shipyards and marine companies build in-house capabilities in identifying hazards and at-risk behaviours including incorporating risk assessment in their work processes. Managers and supervisors were trained to identify potential risks and to remove them at source. Companies were also encouraged to participate in the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council’s bizSAFE programmes, introduced to assist SMEs to improve the management of WSH in their workplace.


As safety is a journey, ASMI continues to fine-tune its safety programmes to ensure that they remain relevant and develop new initiatives to bring enhance safety in the industry. “The whole issue of safety is dynamic. We are able to adapt systems, bring the rules up to date. We must continue to monitor when the situation changes or methods change,” said Mr Wong Peng Kin.


“Safety is a journey and there are always challenges ahead. The key is for everyone to take personal and collective responsibility to enhance safety. ASMI will continue to work with members and industry partners including government bodies to explore ways and means to enhance safety,” said Mr Chia.


This unending quest towards making the workplace safer for every one will remain a key collective goal in ASMI’s safety agenda for the industry.

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