INTERNET-SAVVY retail and office workers can now learn how to spot and eliminate hazards in their workplaces by creating avatars online.

These images, which represent individuals, can then be used to spread the safety message through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The avatars, dubbed the 'citizens of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Nation', can be customised, right down to gender, hairstyles and skin colour.

The portal, at www.wshnation.sg, was launched yesterday by Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Tan Chuan-Jin outside Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road.

The move by the WSH Council is targeted at some 1.5 million people working in the more than 100,000 additional companies that have come under the WSH Act since last month, when it was extended to cover most workplaces in Singapore.

The new workplaces are in the wholesale and retail trade, administrative and support-service sector, and other places such as malls, nightspots, schools and offices.

About 42 per cent of the 4,775 workplace injuries logged in the first half of this year were in these newly included workplaces. The rest came from the marine, construction and manufacturing industries. Workers were generally hurt by cuts and falling objects and in falls.

Brigadier-General (NS) Tan said such workplace injuries can be prevented if more attention is paid to risks and hazards. Since 2006, the Government has given nearly $12 million to help small and medium-sized firms beef up their capabilities to spot and eliminate risks.

But employees must also do their part, said BG Tan, because 'at the end of the day, your own well-being and your family's well-being are at stake'.

Besides social media, television advertisements have been broadcast and 'safety messengers' sent to offices and shopping malls to spread the safety message.

WSH Council deputy chairman Heng Chiang Gnee said the avatar initiative will not just appeal to younger people in the workforce, but also to students who are exposed to hazards and risks in schools.

Mr Heng hopes that 500,000 avatars will be created within six months.