Protecting the Livelihood and Safety of Security Industry Workers By Dr. Matthew Yap Managing Director, ASHTREE International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Catalist-listed Advancer Global Limited.

*ASHTREE ( ASHTREE provides security services tailored to the requirements of specific industries. The Aviation, Healthcare and Maritime industries are amongst some of its clients.

Investors should be rightly concerned about workplace safety, a topic that has been much in the news recently. Not only do workplace accidents affect the image of the company. It may also destroy the assets of the company and affect its business operations. In the first six months of 2022, there were 9000 safety regulation breaches, 50 Stop Work orders and 28 fatalities; Minister, Ministry of Manpower, Dr. Tan See Leng told Parliament on 4 July 2022. The 9000 safety regulation breaches were double the number for the same period last year.

In Part 1

Dr Matthew Yap wrote on the need for the upskilling of security industry workers in tandem with reward and motivation measures to transform it into a future-ready industry. In part 2, Dr Yap explains how the hours-based salary of shift workers in the security industry have an impact on workplace safety and worker productivity. Applying Sun Tzu’s dictum to turn the devious into the direct and misfortune into gain, the author explains how ASHTREE’s innovative measures have helped protect the livelihood as well as the safety of security industry workers.

Linear work and exponential work mentality

PMET vs Shift Worker’s 26-day Monthly Salary Payout Curve

In his book, Sun Tzu Art of War, 30 Ways to Transform, Dr Yap described a day-based worker’s mindset as “linear work mentality” and the hour-based shift worker’s mindset as “exponential work mentality". For example, a PMET who draws a fixed salary of $3000, for a 26-workday calendar of 8 hours a day, would get exactly half his salary for 13 days of work. Thus, his salary is a linear function of days worked.

But for hourly-based workers, who typically work in shifts due to the nature of their jobs, the Ministry of Manpower regulations specify 8 hours of work per day, 44 hours of work per week,176 hours every four weeks as basic salary. Hours beyond these are defined as overtime payable at 1.5 times basic salary. MOM also limits every worker to a maximum of 72 hours overtime; and it has become a statutory offence to roster an officer beyond 72 hours overtime.

This is a recognition of the fact that overwork can affect the worker’s health, alertness level, and ultimately workplace safety. Thus, a shift officer can only work 240 hours (188 + 72) which translates to 22 workdays. This means that the shift worker can only earn 50% of his salary for 16 days and not 13 days of work. The shift-based worker’s earnings are thus an exponential function of hours worked due to the rate of overtime and incentive pay being >1.

(Additionally, when the company rosters a shift worker on a public holiday or during his scheduled rest day, it will need to pay double the basic rate).

Essentially, the shift-based worker’s priority is clock up his scheduled 17 days of work for his basic salary, and then go on to earn overtime income to supplement the inadequate basic salary. This creates a mindset that is detrimental to workplace safety and the worker’s health and alertness level.

“The key to productivity is to manage people and not to manage work”, says Dr Matthew Yap.

Hourly and Overtime based earnings can inculcate a ‘risky’ mindset that endangers workplace safety

In January 2022, a pest control technician who suffered from a cough for three weeks went to a doctor and was told to take a COVID-19 swab test and to stay home during the period of his medical leave. However, the 60-year-old man refused to do so, telling the doctor he would have to forfeit a S$100 work incentive from his company if he took medical leave. He continued to work the next day and went on job calls at five locations, including at a police station. This technician pleaded guilty to one count of exposing others to the risk of Covid-19 infection under the Infectious Diseases Act and was jailed for five weeks.

To make up for their low basic salary many security industry workers often work a second job at the supermarket, at a petrol station or even at another security company. Needless to say, this affects the worker’s health, mental alertness and ultimately, workplace safety.

ASHTREE’s Solution

A carefully designed and more financially rewarding employment contract with emphasis and strict enforcement of a safe work culture is ASHTREE’s solution to the issue of workplace safety. Increasing the basic salary, increasing the number of work hours a day from 8 hours to 8.5 hours a day but reducing the work week from 6 days to 5 days is an example of applying Sun Tzu’s dictum of “The difficulty of tactical manoeuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain”. ASHTREE found that all its workers do not mind working an extra 30 minutes a day, in exchange for a 5-day week, plus a higher basic salary.

ASHTREE was one of the first security agency to introduce a $2650 basic employment contract for 176 hours of work, calculated at 8.5 hours daily and a 5-day work week. This is ahead of the mandatory basic salary under the Singapore government’s Progressive Wage Model for the security industry targeted for implementation on 1 January 2024.

Keynote speaker Mr Shamsul Kamar at ASHTREE Safety day 2022, applauded the leadership at ASHTREE International to set an example with a higher basic salary employment.

Dr Yap believes that the immediate benefits of ASHTREE’s actions will be a change in the mindset of his workers, a change in attitude towards workplace safety and a general increase in operational efficiency and the company’s overall productivity. From a business perspective, the higher gross salary is offset by lower turnover rate of workers, higher productivity per worker, the development of the ASHTREE brand, an increase in the number of clients, and a premium in pricing for its security services.

Contributed by Investor Relations Partner, Waterbrooks Consultants, a member of ShareInvestor Group. For more information, please visit

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