You are here

Ensuring the safest way to the top

Education is key when it comes to emphasising the importance of work safety, says Galmon CEO

'We hope to set a good example for the rest of the industry players or other stakeholders and show how serious we are when it comes to safety.' - Galmon's founder and chief executive officer Desmond Ong

IT'S a proud and unblemished record that the bigwigs at Galmon want to maintain, and hope will never be broken. Throughout the company's 34-year history, the homegrown distributor of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP) has never experienced a fatal accident involving one of its machines. "We've been very fortunate since our inception back in 1982 that we've got a zero fatality rate. We make sure that all our equipment is very safe and passes all the checks," says Galmon's founder and chief executive officer Desmond Ong.

Falls from height are one of the top causes of workplace injuries every year in Singapore. In 2014, 17 per cent of workplace fatalities and 13 per cent of major workplace accidents in Singapore resulted from falls from height.

When Galmon first opened for business, Mr Ong admitted that getting customers was tough because few understood the importance of high safety standards at the workplace. At that time, the construction industry was still using unsafe scaffolding, ladders and makeshift equipment for its work-at-height activities.

"In the beginning, it was very difficult. Nobody understood what we did or cared about safety. It took many years to break into the market (with our MEWPs) and educate people. Even until today, education has to continue, because what drives the industry is safety," says the 64-year-old.

Mr Ong is one business leader who clearly walks the talk. Not only does he actively serve on the National Work-At-Heights Task Force led by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, he also makes sure that Galmon invests heavily when it comes to work-at-heights safety.

In 2011, Galmon established its own training academy and became an approved training provider for MEWPs under the manpower ministry. Last year, the Galmon Academy became an approved training organisation under the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, offering Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses in boom, scissor and personnel lifts.

The 6,700 sq m building includes outdoor and indoor practical training grounds, classrooms for theory lessons and a 300-seater auditorium for holding safety talks and forums.

"We are the pace-setters for the industry, thanks to this modern centre for work-at-heights safety training. We felt that in order to do a proper job when it comes to training, we needed a dedicated facility," says Mr Ong.

"We hope to set a good example for the rest of the industry players or other stakeholders and show how serious we are when it comes to safety. Yes there is a cost involved, but it's worth it because we are doing our best to protect the lives of all our workers," he adds.

Galmon sells, rents and services a wide range of MEWPs in Singapore, including boom lifts, scissor lifts and mobile aluminium scaffold towers. The company's on-site experience is in the construction, building maintenance, aviation, marine, manufacturing, commercial and public sectors. Today, Galmon employs around 200 people who collectively oversee a fleet of more than 3,000 machines.

Over the years, Galmon has scooped up many prestigious awards and accolades. Among them are the bizSAFE Enterprise Exemplary Award and first bizSAFE Champion Award from the WSH Council in 2015, and the Singapore Prestige Brand Award (Established Brand Category) in 2011.

While Galmon has enjoyed much success to date, the uncertain global economic outlook and a slowdown in China mean that many small- and medium-sized enterprises like themselves will have to readjust and reposition themselves in the coming years, says Mr Ong as he reflects on the outlook in the near term.

"The year 2015 was not a good year for us. Construction was down, and 2016 is set to be worse due to many uncertainties. Oil and gas is affected, and so are manufacturing and services, warehousing and logistics. Projects in construction are scarce, and we have to face manpower constraints, higher labour costs and price competition," he says.

"How will we cope? We will have to be more prudent with our expenditure, have a lean organisation, cut back on unnecessary expenditure, close gaps and refine procedures to get the maximum value. All these will help us make our company more viable going forward."

Mr Ong stresses that it's hard to predict how Singapore's business and world economy will fare in the medium term, as much will depend on how the global political landscape and markets turn out. "There are many factors to consider, such as the price of oil, how the Chinese economy will perform, and whether Singapore's manufacturing sector can bring in new capacity," he says.

For now, he is fully focused on ensuring that Galmon retains its status as the market leader in the industry. As long as that is achieved, the business will take care of itself in the long run.

As the CEO, he describes himself as the "troubleshooter" of the company, preferring to be slightly hands-off in the day-to-day running of the company and letting others run the show.

"I would like our employees to make their own decisions when it comes to their work, but when I see that something is not right, I will step in and share how things can be done differently. I am someone whom others can call upon when they have a problem and want to discuss it," says Mr Ong, who practises an open-door policy at work.

Above all, it's the passion for MEWPs and workplace safety that constantly motivates him to do what he has done for the past 34 years: Wake up each morning, drive to his office in Tuas, and chart the best possible future for Galmon and his employees.

"I have a great passion for this business and for doing our small part to contribute to Singapore's growth in the past three decades, and especially in the construction industry. Galmon has been a part of my life for so long, and I don't want to break that routine. I'll continue to lead as long as I can keep on moving," he says with a laugh.