Singapore: New code of practice setting out top management's workplace safety and health responsibilities
The Ministry of Manpower has recently launched a workplace safety code of practice for company management (the “Code of Practice”). The Code of Practice is targeted at the top management of the company (i.e. the chief executive and company directors) as they have the influence and control over budgets, priorities and training for workplace safety and health. A company that does not follow the Code of Practice could be seen as falling short of legal standards.
The Code of Practice spells out the duties of company CEOs and directors on workplace safety and health (“WSH”), as well as reinforces their accountability for accidents at work. Workplace safety and health also include the mental well-being of workers. The Code of Practice would be relevant for all company directors, regardless of industry and organisation size.
The Code of Practice will be gazetted by October 2022. This would mean that in the event of an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act 2006 (the “Act”), the courts can consider the company directors’ compliance to this Code of Practice in their judgment. One example is Section 48(1) of the Act, whereby company directors are liable in ensuring their workers’ safety and health and are also responsible for providing that they had exercised due diligence to prevent workplace incidents. The adhering to the Code of Practice’s principles by the company directors can then be a mitigating factor that the courts consider.
Principles and Measures under the Code of Practice
There are four main principles in the Code of Practice, and the table below describes the principles and measures in the Code of Practice.
Ensure WSH is integrated into business decisions and have clarity of roles and responsibilities of Chief Executive and individual members of the Board of Directors in leading WSH.
Assign and document WSH roles and responsibilities of individual company director(s).
Establish the WSH policy, standards and strategic goals for the organisation.
Continuously build a strong WSH culture, set the tone and demonstrate visible leadership in embodying and communicating highly effective WSH standards.
Publish the organisation’s WSH commitment, and review, endorse and track the organisation’s WSH targets and performance regularly.
Set WSH as a regular agenda item in management / board meetings.
Ensure sufficient resource allocation to WSH.
Facilitate direct reporting of WSH issues to the Company Director(s).
Acquire WSH knowledge.
Conduct engagements to understand processes, workers’ concerns and communicate the need to prioritise WSH.
Set and demand effective WSH standards and performance from vendor and partners.
Ensure that WSH management systems are highly effective and reviewed regularly.
Ensure effectiveness of WSH management systems and maintain oversight of compliance with safe work procedures.
Ensure suitable, adequate and timely risk assessment.
Recognise and reward workers’ efforts toward achieving good WSH performance.
Endorse immediate remedial / disciplinary actions to address workers’ repeated non-compliance with safe work procedures.
Empower workers to actively engage in WSH.
Ensure processes are in place for workers to receive information on WSH risks and safe work procedures in a timely manner.
Set up reporting systems, encourage proactive reporting and, ensure proper follow-up to address WSH issues.
Commit resources and protected time for workers to undergo WSH training and refresher courses.
Involve workers in the joint development and implementation of strategies / programmes to improve WSH
If you wish to know more about the steps that your company can take to ensure compliance with the Code of Practice or how the Code of Practice affects you and/or your business, do reach out to Nicola Loh or Tio Siaw Min.