Health panel to expand schemes to older workers, Health News …

Plans to get working adults to be healthier will be scaled up over the next three years, with an emphasis on older workers and those in high- risk industries such as construction.

This is an expansion of schemes the Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health has put in place since 2014.

Yesterday, the committee released its report card for the past three years. It has reached out to more than 300,000 people so far, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who chairs the committee along with Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan.

Its programmes include holding health checkups for older workers in hard-to-reach industries with less structured working patterns.

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It has also organised workplace workouts and put healthier dishes on canteen menus.

These efforts have borne fruit. Half of 3,000 bus and taxi drivers saw some improvement in their chronic health conditions.

And three-quarters of office workers who had abnormal health screening results went to a doctor for a follow-up.

  • Workplace fatality rates down

  • Workplace fatality rates have fallen significantly over the past 12 months, but there is still work to be done.

    Adequate safety training must continue, and high levels of enforcement maintained, said Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan.

    The authorities must also continue to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety and health among those in the industry, he said.

    Workplace fatality rates stood at 1.2 per 100,000 employed persons over the past 12 months, down from 1.9 for the whole of last year.

    “You can see some significant improvement,” Mr Tan said. “But of course to us… every fatality is one too many.”

    Mr Tan was speaking at a briefing about the work that the Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health has been doing over the past three years.

    A new committee will be set up to chart the course of workplace health and safety for the next three years.

    One of its tasks will be to help those working in high-risk industries, such as the construction sector.

    Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said that health and safety are in fact more closely linked than many people realise.

    For instance, older workers in these industries often have chronic diseases.

    “If their chronic diseases are not managed properly, they are at higher risk of getting into accidents,” he said.

    Linette Lai

Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg, with 3.6 million workers in Singapore. “Our goal is to reach out to 120,000 hard-to-reach mature workers by 2025,” Dr Khor said.

This group includes security guards, cleaners, and workers in the food and beverage industry.

She added that they are also looking to get more office workers on board, saying: “We’re looking at reaching out to around 465,000 workers in total by 2020.”

The tripartite committee includes people from the Health and Manpower ministries, Health Promotion Board, and Workplace Safety and Health Council.

A new committee will be set up to oversee the expansion of programmes from various pilot schemes so far.

Lessons gleaned include the importance of tailoring programmes to suit working adults’ schedules and needs, and getting workplaces on board to offer healthy activities.

One of the issues the new committee will tackle is sustainability. This is important as some of the existing schemes rely on external incentives – such as the chance to win prizes – to encourage people to make healthier choices.

“What we are trying to achieve…is internal change and mindset change,” said Professor Chia Kee Seng, who is dean at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.

“That’s the end goal we want to achieve – that at the national level, people change from within.”

One person who enjoys having workplace workouts is 26-year-old Amanda Kiong, who tries to go for the weekly workouts when she has the time.

“The nature of my work is more sedentary, so I try to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle,” said the finance executive, who works at the OUE Downtown building.

“I think it’s quite good to hold such programmes after work because it encourages work-life balance as well.”

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