Greater health focus on older workers and those in high-risk sectors

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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 Safety and 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, 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 check-ups for older workers in hard-to-reach industries with less structured working patterns. It 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.

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.

"We're looking at reaching out to around 465,000 workers in total by 2020," she said.

A new committee with the same name 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 that the new committee will be tackling 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.

At the event, Mr Tan also said they must continue to raise the awareness of workplace safety and health. 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.