The Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health has plans to expand the current schemes for working adults. Their efforts to boost the health and safety of working adults will be scaled up over the next three years. In addition, the committee intends on placing an emphasis on older workers as well as those in high-risk industries, such as construction.

Over 300,000 workers have reaped scheme’s benefits so far

On 20 July, the committee released its report card for the recent three-year term. Speaking at the media briefing, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, said more than 300,000 employees have benefitted from the schemes so far. Dr Khor chairs the committee alongside Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower.

The programmes organised include conducting health screenings for older workers in hard-to-reach industries that have less structured working patterns. On top of that, they have also revamped canteen menus to comprise healthier food options and organised workouts in the workplace.

According to the report, all these efforts have produced significant results. Some improvements in chronic health conditions of about 50% of 3,000 bus and taxi drivers were noted. Besides that, three-quarters of office workers with abnormal health screening results subsequently went to a doctor for a follow-up visit. The 300,000 employees who have benefitted include 32,000 mature workers (aged 40 and above) from seven sectors — such as retail, transport and logistics. They make up 40% of the total mature workforce in Singapore.

Dr Khor stated that they are barely scratching the surface – as there are 3.6 million Singaporean workers to consider. “Our goal is to reach out to 120,000 hard-to-reach mature workers by 2025,” she asserted. This group includes cleaners, security guards and workers in the food and beverage industry.

Furthermore, the committee plans on involving more office workers. “We're looking at reaching out to around 465,000 workers in total by 2020,” she added.

Supportive working environment and programmes tailored according to workers’ schedules vital

Representatives from the Health and Manpower Ministries, Health Promotion Board and Workplace Safety and Health Council make up the tripartite committee. In order to oversee the programme expansion from several pilot schemes thus far, a new committee will be formed.

Some of the issues to work on include tailoring programmes to better suit working adults' schedules and needs as well as getting workplaces on board to propose healthy activities. “Employers have to be supportive in terms of allowing employees to come onto the programmes, and providing the spaces and facilities. For example, in some of the bus interchanges, they’ve allowed us to use rest spaces for bus captains to organise talks, health coaching, and so on,” said Dr Khor.

Besides that, they will need to address sustainability moving forward. Currently, some of the schemes depend on external incentives – like offering up the chance to win prizes – in order to urge the people to choose healthier options.

Dean at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, Professor Chia Kee Seng said, “What we are trying to achieve is internal change and mindset change. That's the end goal we want to achieve – that at the national level, people change from within.” MIMS

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