One of the challenges that we have come across when trying to get forms filled up and up to date on our compliance issues is the complexity of the entire process. For small businesses or SMEs, navigating these documents, filings and regulations can be challenge.
It can also be a safety hazard for some. Last year in Singapore, the workplace fatality rate was 1.3 per 100,000 workers with a total of 46 worker deaths while the rate of employees who experienced major injuries increased from 16.8 per 100,000 workers to 18.7.
Due to this, there has been a greater emphasis on workplace safety and health (WSH) regulations for all companies. With the Ministry of Manpower extending the period of heightened safety till the end of May, it is increasingly important for employers to ensure they are meeting WSH guidelines.
One such capability building programme is bizSAFE, which is designed to help companies build workplace safety and health capabilities. While bizSAFE certification is not mandatory, unlike the Risk Assessment that companies have to submit upon incorporation, it is strongly recommended to have the certification, especially as it can make it easier for businesses to be awarded tenders and sales while ensuring that the companies build workplace safety and health capabilities.
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However, the process to acquire the certification can be daunting and time-consuming, taking approximately 2-4 weeks. Additionally, in order for the certification to remain valid, businesses need to renew their certification after 3 years. When the time comes for renewal, businesses oftentimes misplace the documents and have to scramble to find them or simply opt to re-do them.
To find out more, we spoke to Chris Chen founder the bizSAFE documentation and risk assessment platform, ExpertRA. This platform simplifies the process to help SMEs reduce the time taken and remove the need for external consultants, when applying for bizSAFE.
Here’s what he had to share.
Could you explain why Singaporean SMEs need something like ExpertRA?
Recent events such as increased worker deaths and major injuries arising from workplace accidents have stressed the importance of workplace safety and health (WSH) regulations and compliance. As a result, more and more companies are looking to get bizSAFE certified to ensure proper processes and procedures are in place, thereby creating a safe workplace for their employees.
However, the certification process is often daunting, time-consuming and expensive, and many SMEs have chosen to pay big bucks to engage consultancy firms to have their company certified. While the price has dropped since three years ago, that has often led to compromises in the work and service quality.
At ExpertRA, we provide a customised solution that reduces the need for a high consultancy expense while helping SMEs generate all the necessary documentation they need for their certification, tailored to their specific industry and needs.
What is bizSAFE for those who are unaware and what types of businesses need this regulation?
The bizSAFE programme, supported by the Ministry of Manpower was designed to help companies build workplace safety and health capabilities. Consisting of 5 structured steps, companies can apply directly for a level so long as it meets the requirements.
Though previously practised by heavier industries such as marine, oil and gas, manufacturing and construction, the certification has now been widely adopted by other industries including F&B, hotels, service and retail industries amidst rising awareness and education that safety concerns and accidents can happen anywhere.
ExpertRA primarily aids companies looking to apply for bizSAFE level 3. Before the audit takes place, the company would have to complete a proper WSH report based on set criteria and paperwork. As mentioned earlier, this is usually the part where SMEs or even MNCs would hire consultants to do up the report but instead, ExpertRA fulfils that role in guiding businesses through the entire process in a step-by-step manner, making sure to dot all i’s and cross all t’s before generating the complete documents, ready for submission to request the audit.
What are some of the challenges that Singapore SMEs have faced when it comes to applying for bizSAFE and other certifications?
I wouldn’t really say challenges lie in obtaining the certification per se. But most of the time, SMEs are busy with their day-to-day operations and don’t have time to read through the full amount of documents.
We hope that by using the platform, not only are they able to generate the documents but they are also able to educate themselves about WSH at the same time. We have quite an extensive and regularly updated database for over 30 industries and because of the way the platform has been designed to guide employers – by providing pre-qualified items and risk measures that we have identified for them, we hope that they are then able to put the different measures into practice at their workplace.
How do you convince traditional SME owners to use digital solutions when they may be running their business using pen and paper?
Change always takes time, right? It was the same when the computer and the internet were first introduced. I believe that if the solution itself can add value to the companies and the industry, it’s a matter of time before it replaces what used to be the norm.
Companies are now making conscious efforts to go digital, and while we are not saying to eliminate pen and paper because those still have their merits, we’ve experienced the positives of leveraging technology in our businesses.
For ExpertRA, we focused primarily on making it easy to use and intuitive, taking owners through all the various paperwork in a way that’s easily accessible and understandable even without a consultant helping them through the process. Additionally, because the certification is only valid for 3 years and companies have to renew, what happens if you misplace or lose the documents? Going digital helps to alleviate that situation with a digital copy but if there is a dedicated place that you know you can go to for all the relevant documents when the time comes and you don’t have to fill in all those documents all over again? It makes the process a breeze.
What’s next for ExpertRA?
We are taking it one step at a time. For now, we are primarily focused on educating the companies more about WSH so that they can ensure a safer working environment for everyone. In time to come, we will be launching an app that would incorporate additional features such as reporting and real-time communication tools to better equip companies on their WSH journey.