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Singapore

MOM launches workplace safety code of practice for company management

The code of practice spells out the duties of company CEOs and directors on workplace safety and health.

10:11 Min
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday (Sep 19) launched a code of practice that spells out the duties of company CEOs and directors on workplace safety and health, as well as reinforces their accountability for accidents at work. Neo Rong Wei has more. 

SINGAPORE: Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday (Sep 19) launched a code of practice that spells out the duties of company CEOs and directors on workplace safety and health, as well as reinforces their accountability for accidents at work.

This will be gazetted by October. When there is an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the courts can consider compliance with the code of practice in their judgment.

While the WSH Act already holds company directors liable for ensuring workers’ safety and health, the code outlines the "desired outcomes" in organisational systems and culture that they should seek to achieve, and lists examples of steps they can take.

Speaking at the opening of the 2022 WSH Conference, Dr Tan said that Singapore's workplace safety and health (WSH) performance got off to a "rocky start" this year.

There have been 37 workplace fatalities so far in 2022, the same figure for the whole of 2021.

Most of these accidents were due to preventable safety lapses, such as inadequate control measures or the lack of adherence to safety procedures, said Dr Tan.

"For a strong WSH culture to germinate, to grow and flourish, it must start from the top – with the chief executive and company directors," the minister said.

"This is because they are the ones with influence and control over budgets, priorities and training for WSH.

"WSH considerations have to be entrenched as most the important and non-negotiable decisions."

There are four main principles in the Code of Practice on Chief Executives and Board of Directors' WSH Duties.

The first is to ensure that WSH is integrated into business decisions and there is clarity in the roles and responsibilities of CEOs and directors in leading workplace safety and health measures.

Secondly, company management should "continuously build a strong WSH culture, set the tone and demonstrate visible leadership in embodying and communicating highly effective WSH standards", Dr Tan said.

They should also ensure that WSH management systems are effective and reviewed regularly, as well as empower workers to be actively engaged in WSH.

"The COP aims to distil the management principles and practices of safe companies into actionable steps for others to adopt and adapt to their circumstances," Dr Tan said.

He noted that it was drafted after "extensive consultations" with the Singapore Institute of Directors, Singapore Institute of Safety Officers, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Tripartite Partners and various industry associations.

The code was first announced in April and the ministry has been consulting industry stakeholders on it since then.

It will apply to companies in all industries, even those that have no manual work and little risk of physical injury. It also covers the mental well-being of workers.

"We will be gazetting the COP as an Approved COP by October this year," said Dr Tan.

"This means that in the event of a WSH Act offence, the courts can consider compliance to this approved COP in their judgment. Adhering to the approved COP’s principles can be a mitigating factor."

Dr Tan added that small- and medium-sized enterprises starting out on implementing WSH can apply to the Ministry of Manpower's StartSAFE programme, and the ministry will bear the full cost of WSH consultancy visits to identify risks and advise on safety measures.

Urging companies to strengthen their WSH culture, he said: "We recognise that it has been a turbulent period as we continue to battle work pressures and uncertainties.

"But we cannot and we can never let it be an excuse to put WSH on the back burner. It is paramount that companies understand the need to be safe, and how WSH is aligned to their commercial and economic interests."

Source: CNA/hm(gs)
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