How can OSH Professionals Prepare for the Future of Workplace Health?

Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health | Division Director for Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHD),Ministry of Manpower (MOM)


Mr. Sng joined MOM in 1997 as a safety inspector and in the course of his career, Mr. Sng had assumed various leadership roles such as Director, OSH Inspectorate; Director, Work Injury Compensation Department and Deputy Executive Director, Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council. Mr. Sng was instrumental in the development of the current Workplace Safety and Health Act that was enacted in the aftermath of the 2004 Nicoll Highway Collapse.  On 1 April 2019, Mr. Sng was appointed as the Divisional Director for the Occupational Safety and Health Division, Ministry of Manpower.  He is entrusted with the honour and responsibility to lead OSHD to achieve the next level of WSH improvements for Singapore guided by the new WSH2028 strategies.


OSH professionals in Singapore have contributed significantly to the remarkable improvements to our workplace fatality rate over the last 15 years.  Many have acquired new skills and competencies.  Even as we sustain the improvements, there are many workplace health challenges confronting OSH professionals.  Traditional hazards continue to plague workers causing them to become ill.  There are probably new or unknown hazards at the workplace as well.  At the same time, our workforce is aging, and many will experience chronic illness that can affect safety at work.  This presentation will discuss these challenges that confronts all practicing OSH professionals and how we can better prepare ourselves to cope with these challenges.


OSH - Breaking New Frontiers, Strengthening Foundations 

Distinguished Professor of Occupational Health and Medicine, Universiti Brunei Darussalam | Professor, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore 


Prof. David Koh qualified in medicine in Singapore and completed his postgraduate training in both occupational medicine and public health in Singapore and the United Kingdom.

He has worked in the National University of Singapore for over 25 years from 1985, where he served as:

  • Head of the Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine; 
  • Director of the Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health Research, NUS, and
  • Founding program director of the National Preventive Medicine Residency program.

In 2012, Prof. Koh joined the PAPRSB Institute of Health Sciences of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam as its first Chair Professor of Occupational Health. He was appointed as Assistant Vice Chancellor from 2014 to 2018 and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Occupational Health and Medicine in UBD.


The nature of work is evolving, with changing patterns of employment and the emergence of novel hazards. Technology has become more pervasive - it often helps but can sometimes blur the lines between work and leisure. An ageing workforce, seen in many countries gives rise to new health challenges. Work-related diseases such as mental health disorders are gaining prominence. Traditional approaches in disease prevention that work for chemical, physical and biological hazards may be ineffective in managing psychosocial hazards. The adoption of a total WSH approach is also ground-breaking, as it is now generally recognized that occupational ill health results in greater mortality and morbidity than occupational injuries. The new Vision zero not only applies to accidents, as in the past, but also to diseases. For us to better prepare for OSH disruption due to new technology, we must keep abreast of developments, embrace change, be aware of hype, and ensure that policy, regulations and ethics keep up with technology.

At the same time, OSH foundations need to be maintained and strengthened. The emphasis on primary prevention should remain our focus, but secondary and tertiary prevention should not be neglected. Some jobs and occupational hazards will remain the same – so training needs to be given for both traditional as well as non-traditional risks and concerns. Increasingly, OSH professionals may be asked to deal with environmental health issues, which often arise from the workplace as a source of pollution. This requires mastery of traditional skill sets in OSH such as hygiene, toxicology, risk assessment and risk management. As OSH is a practical discipline, we need ensure that we do not lose our hands-on approach, interact with workers, and visit and assess the workplace. Expectations from management and workers will rise, and these can be met by OSH professionals working in a professional, impartial, ethical and caring manner.



Practical Application of Total Worker Health 
® for the OESH Professional

Retired; Past President, American Industrial Hygiene Association (2017 - 2018) 


Ms. Deborah Imel Nelson, Ph.D., CIH, FAIHA, earned her Environmental Science and M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering, in Norman, Oklahoma, and her Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) and Ph.D. in Environmental Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US.  She has been certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) in the comprehensive practice of industrial hygiene since 1981.  Ms. Nelson has served as a US Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) industrial hygiene compliance officer and as a professor of environmental science at the University of Oklahoma.  For two years she was an Occupational Health Scientist with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where she conducted exposure assessments for the Global Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness.  She recently retired as the Safety and Occupational Health Manager for the US Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Services, which was heavily involved in highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in 2015 and 2016.

Ms. Nelson is a Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and served as AIHA President 2017 – 2018. She was the 2007 recipient of AIHA’s Smyth Award, which is presented annually to an individual who has recognized the needs of the industrial hygiene profession and contributed to the improvement of the public’s welfare. She is currently a student in the Colorado School of Public Health certificate program in Total Worker Health ®.    


Total Worker Health® is a holistic approach to worker wellbeing that integrates protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts. Organizations that have integrated their health protection and health promotion programs can potentially expect improved employee wellbeing, reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity, and improved organizational performance. Successful design and implementation of a TWH program in an organization requires knowledge and skills traditionally “owned” by a range of occupational and environmental safety and health (OESH), medical, human resource, and business professionals. An emerging professional specialty in TWH that integrates competencies from these disciplines is supported by an expanding list of peer-reviewed literature, as research adds to the body of knowledge of TWH.

This presentation will provide an overview of TWH followed by practical suggestions for OESH professionals to implement TWH in their workplaces.  The TWH hierarchy of controls will be presented as a practical approach to recognition, evaluation, control, and communication of workplace health issues such as opioid abuse and psychosocial stress.  



Heat Injury Prevention in Occupational Settings

Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology | Programme Director, Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University


Assoc. Prof. Fabian Lim is the Assistant Dean for Research, Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology and Programme Director for the Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine programme at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. He received his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees (Exercise Science) from the University of Oregon and his PhD degree (Exercise Science) from the University of Queensland.  He also has an MBA degree from the University of Surrey. 

Assoc. Prof. Lim is a recipient of the Defence Science Scholarship from the Ministry of Defence, Singapore, where he held various science and technology-related appointments from 1991 to May 2011. His last appointment in the Ministry of Defence was Programme Director for Combat Protection and Performance Research Programme at DSO National Laboratories. 

Assoc. Prof. Lim had the opportunity to set-up the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) in 2011 and led SSI as the Executive Director until 2014. Among the many achievements during his tenure in SSI, he developed and implemented the national strategy for elite sports and grew the Sport Science and Medicine capabilities to support Team Singapore. These programmes include the SPeX Scholarship and the Singapore Sports Medicine Network.

Assoc. Prof. Lim also served as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (2007-2014), and was a member of the Institutional Review Board at Republic Polytechnic (2013-2016) and MOE’s NAPFA Review Board (2015). He is still a member of the Fitness Advisory Board in the SAF.


Heat injury is a major concern in occupations settings, especially in industries where the workers are exposed to hot and humid environment. Protecting workers from the risks of heat injury will become even more important in the next decade, due to the effects of global warming.

For more than 2 centuries, heat injury has been attributed mainly to hear stress and dehydration. These concepts of heat injury have become the foundation for strategies to prevent heat injury in sports, occupational and civilian settings globally e.g. avoidance of heat stress and ensuring a state of hydration. However, research evidence in the last 15 years have provided new evidence to suggest that there are non-heat-related factors that can also cause heat injury.

This presentation will discuss this new evidence in occupational context and strategies that can be taken to further reduce the risks of heat injury. With better appreciation on the causes of heat injury, stakeholders in occupational safety would be in a better position to take effective measure to protect workers from this fatal occupational hazard.



Breaking Frontiers in Hearing Health Protection and Hearing Loss Prevention 

Retired; Former Chief Occupational Hygienist, Ontario Ministry of Labour


Er. David Leong is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), US American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and a Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH), Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienist.  He is also a Professional Engineer in the Province of Ontario, Canada. He is the retired, former chief occupational hygienist of the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

He serves the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as its Chair of Air Sampling Instruments Committee. He is also the Chief Editor & co-authors for the ACGIH new publication: “Air Sampling Technologies: Principles and Applications”, and its twenty-plus monographs.

He has authored or co-authored published papers on hand-arm vibration, whole-body vibration, indoor air quality, chemical exposures, bioaerosols, exposure standards, etc.

He was engaged in 2013 by Singapore’s Workforce Development Agency and Ngee Ann Polytechnic as a developer and a trainer for three Occupational Hygiene Train-the-Trainer Master courses. More recently, he had been invited to speak at the various occupational hygiene conferences and seminars in China and Taiwan.

Er. Leong received his Ph.D. in chemistry and M. Eng. in environmental engineering from University of Toronto, and M.Sc. (Honours) and B.Sc. in chemistry from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


Occupational hearing loss has been related to noise-induced hearing loss for many years but is far more complex than we knew before. It is now known that the occupational exposures to ototoxic chemicals (e.g. solvents, metal and compounds, asphyxiants, nitriles etc.) alone as well as the combined exposures to noise AND ototoxic chemicals can cause hearing loss among the exposed workers. Additional risk factor is the synergistic effects of both noise and ototoxic chemicals in the combined exposures. Despite these recent findings, it is unlikely that the current occupational exposure limits for noise (8-hour equivalent noise exposure of 85 dBA and 3 dB exchange rate) will be revised soon.

Relative to noise, workplaces are less familiar with ototoxic chemicals and should catch up as early as possible with the much-needed work on these chemicals, starting with identification of ototoxic chemicals and product ototoxic ingredients in their workplaces, and adoption of basic control measures including substitution and elimination. Following risk assessment, workplaces may expand their existing air monitoring programs targeting the ototoxic chemical exposures.

Workplaces should step up their prevention efforts on occupational hearing loss by expanding and updating their existing hearing conservation programs to include those workers with lower noise exposures (i.e. LAeq 8h <85 dBA) in the noise monitoring and medical surveillance programs, and also include those workers exposed to ototoxic chemicals in the hearing conservation and audiometric testing programs, even if they are not exposed to noise.

Total protection of hearing health at any age, and prevention or management of any type of hearing loss are needed to address this common health issue. The effectiveness of preventing occupational hearing loss goes beyond the sole efforts focusing on regulation compliance.