Making workplaces safe for all

Daniel Lim

The act of maintaining safety in every industry is a top priority for the Government of Brunei Darussalam. It is for this purpose that the Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA) was established by enacting the Safety, Health and Environment National Authority Order, 2018, signed by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on October 6, 2018.

The signing resulted in SHENA being named the national authority responsible for regulating the workplace safety and health, environment and radiation matters.

Within this responsibility comes the formation of the Industry Health, Safety and Environment (iHSE) Group, which comprises people who are at the forefront of the many industries operating in the country. The iHSE Group was established to serve as an initiative to promote and enforce the importance of safety in all fields of industry.

This was what Deputy Chairman of iHSE Group Shaikh Haji Khalid bin Shaikh Haji Ahmed, who is also the Chairman and Managing Director of Serikandi Group of Companies, highlighted in a meeting with the Bulletin where he discussed the iHSE Group’s aims and vision.

Quoting what Permanent Secretary (Energy) at the Ministry of Energy Haji Azhar bin Haji Yahya said in November 2019, Shaikh Haji Khalid explained that the group aims to help raise Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) standards in Brunei.

Deputy Chairman of iHSE Group Shaikh Haji Khalid bin Shaikh Haji Ahmed and Chairperson for the iHSE Group for 2019-2020 Dr Ceri M Powell. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

Shaikh Haji Khalid said that since the committee was established in November 19, 2019, they have held several meetings, with the latest at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Chancellor Hall in last August, in which they expanded the scope of the vision of the group.

Among the expansions that were made was the delegation of members to specific areas of safety expertise, which includes champions in three industry level forums, including major accident hazards, industry and non-industry.

In addition, discussions also led to the creation of several committee taskforces within the group that focus on key areas, which include ‘work at height’, ‘crane management’, ‘safety in education’ and ‘personal protective equipment’.

The expansion serves as a reminder of the high probability that accidents can occur due to lax in safety procedure and protocol, and as such, the group also aims to help represent nation’s industries, both large and small, within the Safety and Health, Environment and Radiation (SHER) Advisory Board.

Similarly, the group’s portfolio also highlights that the committee provides input for the development and implementation of HSE-related laws and regulations, policies, directives, guidelines and practices with the aim of achieving an accident-free workplace and to protect the environment in Brunei Darussalam.

The committee also aims to implement the best practices on safety and health at work, while recognising companies with good WSH and environment records.

Shaikh Haji Khalid said ongoing discussions among the committee members are to achieve the aims and mission of the group, which can help reduce fatalities as well as to instil a mindset of safety from top officials to workers.

Currently, the group has officials representing companies and agencies from a variety of industries in the nation.

Shaikh Haji Khalid said the group is slated to be officially recognised by the end of this year upon completion of their paperwork and pending approval from authorities.

Similarly, the appointed Chairperson for the iHSE Group from 2019-2020 Dr Ceri M Powell agrees with the sentiment that safety is not a competition, but rather a right for every worker when they come to work every day.

“I truly believe that my ultimate vision would be for this iHSE Group to enable every worker in Brunei, whether it’s an executive worker or the frontliner, to feel safe, knowing there is an industry body looking out for their safety,” she said.

As such, she stressed the importance of ensuring the four thematic focus areas of safety are addressed.

In particular, ‘safety in education’ is a key area for her as she envisions the future of the group.

This not only extends the need to ensure that the surrounding environment and school equipment used by students and teachers are safe, but also to educate the young generation on health and safety.

When asked how best to implement the safety standards for the benefit of all workers, she outlined a few key points.

“For senior leaders, first and foremost, I would encourage them to get out to the operations, go and see boots on the ground, by visiting the frontline,” she said.

Similarly, she also encouraged frontline workers to speak up, noting that if “they feel confident when they see something is not safe, they are able to raise their hands and say ‘could we stop work because this work is not safe’.”

This, she noted, can help to create a conducive environment where safety is being prioritised above all else and create an environment where workers can feel confident in speaking up on unsafe work conditions. “If we are able to succeed in creating this mindset, Brunei can be a safe place to work.”

Lastly, she concluded that conducting business and safety goes hand in hand.

“The Industry HSE Group is one such conduit for conducting safe business within Brunei.”