Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Let’s Observe Ourselves Awards Ceremony on World Toilet Day, 19 November 2021
Mr Ho Chee Kit
President, Restroom Association (Singapore)
Mr Allen Ang
Board Technical Lead, Singapore Green Building Council
1 Good afternoon everyone. It is my pleasure to join you this afternoon.
2 Since 2009, the Restroom Association Singapore has organised the Let’s Observe Ourselves Awards, or LOO Awards, every year in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Toilet Day on 19 November. While this day is meant to commemorate toilets, it is also a reminder for us to not take public health and sanitation for granted.
Impetus to Raise Public Toilet Cleanliness
3 Singapore has come a long way to achieve the level of cleanliness we enjoy in toilets today. In the early years, we relied on soil bucket collectors who would collect our toilet waste every night. Today, we have easy access to clean toilets at home and in our public spaces, thanks to the efforts of all stakeholders and a strong desire to continuously improve our cleanliness and hygiene standards.
4 There is still much we can improve on. In a 2021 survey conducted by the Singapore Management University, respondents were asked about their satisfaction of the cleanliness of public toilets in various establishments. While 96 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the cleanliness of public toilets in shopping malls, less than 70 per cent felt the same about toilets in coffee shops and hawker centres. Many cited issues such as dirty or stained toilet seats and floors, as well as bad smells and odour.
5 We must continue in our pursuit of better public health standards. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that new diseases and outbreaks are a real threat, and can strike when we least expect it. We must remain vigilant and build up our resilience against such public health threats.
Efforts to Raise Cleanliness Standards
6 To raise standards of cleanliness in public premises, the Environmental Public Health Act was amended in October 2020 to implement mandatory baseline cleaning standards and place greater accountability on premises owners to meet those standards.
7 The National Environment Agency (or NEA) also launched the Toilet Improvement Programme for coffeeshops and hawker centres. Under this programme, NEA provides co-funding for toilet improvement works in these premises to facilitate cleaning and maintenance, as well as enhance public hygiene.
8 These efforts alone will not be enough to raise our public health standards. All stakeholders – cleaners, cleaning companies, toilet owners, operators, and individuals – must play a part. If we do not have all hands on deck, diseases will be able to penetrate our defences easily and threaten our health and well-being.
Celebrating our Heroes
9 This afternoon, we will be recognising 44 exemplary LOO award winners for their efforts in keeping our public toilets clean and safeguarding public health.
10 30 cleaners, the highest in the history of the event, will be receiving an award for their dedication to work and continuous learning. One example is Mr Yap Beng Teck, from A-Force Maintenance Pte Ltd. Not only did Mr Yap obtain the highest score this year, he also managed to complete four Workforce Skills Qualifications (or WSQ) environmental cleaning modules within a year.
11 I am also happy to note the collaboration between Restroom Association Singapore and Singapore Green Building Council to certify restroom products with Detect, Feedback, Eliminate and Clean smart features. This will facilitate and encourage the use of technology-based products, which can provide a boost to restroom cleaning productivity and effectiveness.
12 For example, premises owners can consider installing sensors at restrooms to alert restroom attendants when foul smells are detected or when amenities such as soap solution or toilet paper run out. Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd, who is one of our award recipients today, has adopted such products and solutions in their toilets. Premises owners can also install sanitary fittings with technology-based features such as vortex flush toilet bowls and anti-stain coatings. These can help make the maintenance of toilets easier.
13 Today, we also celebrate individuals who have gone the extra mile to rally others to take action. For example, Alyssa Ho from Riverside Primary School and Htate Htar Khin from Bukit View Primary School have led school projects to remind their peers to be considerate and gracious.
14 I congratulate all recipients and hope these awards will encourage you to keep up the great work and inspire others around you. I also thank the Restroom Association Singapore for organising the LOO awards for the past 13 years, and your relentless efforts in advocating for clean public toilets.
15 Let us continue to raise our standards of cleanliness and hygiene. Together, we can keep Singapore safe and clean for everyone.