MOM has expressed extreme concern over the increase in workplace fatalities since the start of 2022, as compared to the whole of 2021 and in 2019 pre-COVID. Together with tripartite partners and industry stakeholders, MOM has taken the following steps to hold employers to higher WSH standards in an effort to reduce workplace the fatal injury rate to less than 1 per 100,000 workers by 2028:
The courts have also introduced a new sentencing framework with harsher penalties against employers that fail to ensure the health and safety of employees at work under the WSHA 2006; see our alert: Recent High Court decisions on employer liability for workplace safety offences and compensation for workplace injuries.
However, MOM recognises that the inculcation of a safety culture, which underpins safe workplaces, must start with the senior management, who:
- Set the culture and allocate the resources within their organisations
- Ultimately shape WSH practices throughout the company
MOM earlier ran a public consultation on the proposed Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) on Chief Executives' and Board of Directors' WSH Duties, and expedited the ACOP from Q1 2023 to Q4 2022. On conclusion of the public consultation and industry engagements on 8 September 2022, MOM and WSH Council have reviewed the feedback received and will gazette and bring into effect the finalised document by October 2022.
The law already places WSH responsibilities on company leadership, with section 48(1) of the WSHA 2006 obliging all officers of a company, including directors, to:
- Ensure their workers' safety and health
- Prove they had exercised due diligence to prevent workplace incidents
The Code outlines the desired outcomes in organisational systems and culture that directors should seek to achieve in order to comply with section 48(1), and while directors should assess the relevance of the measures cited in the Code to their organisations, including industry type and nature of exposure to risks and hazards, the directors nonethless adopt and adapt the recommended practices that best suit the nature of work in their sector and organisation.
Under the following four principles:
- Integrate WSH into business decisions and ensure clarity in directors' roles and responsibilities in leading WSH
- Continuously build a strong WSH culture, set the tone and demonstrate visible leadership in embodying and communicating highly effective workplace safety and health standards
- Ensure WSH management systems are effective and reviewed regularly
- Empower workers to be actively engaged in WSH
the Code lists reasonably practicable steps that directors can take to realise the desired organisational WSH systems and culture.
We summarise these measures below:
|Management conduct and policy making
- Establish the WSH policy, standards and strategic goals for the organisation
- Set WSH as a regular agenda item in management/board meetings
- Review, endorse and track the organisation's WSH targets and performance regularly
- Facilitate direct reporting of WSH issues to the director(s)
- Ensure suitable, adequate and timely risk assessment
- Endorse immediate remedial/disciplinary actions to address workers' repeated non-compliance with safe work procedures
- Set and demand effective WSH standards and performance from vendors and partners
|Diligence and training
- Acquire WSH knowledge
- Ensure processes are in place for workers to receive information on WSH risks and safe work procedures in a timely manner
- Conduct worker engagements to understand processes and workers' concerns, and communicate the need to prioritise WSH
- Ensure effectiveness of WSH management systems and maintain oversight of compliance with safe work procedures
|Disclosure and reporting
- Publish the organisation's WSH commitment
- Set up reporting systems, encourage proactive reporting and ensure proper follow-up to address WSH issues
|Budget and resourcing
- Ensure sufficient resource allocation to WSH
- Commit resources and protected time for workers to undergo WSH training and refresher courses
- Recognise and reward workers' efforts toward achieving good WSH performance
- Assign and document WSH roles and responsibilities of individual director(s)
- Involve workers in the joint development and implementation of strategies/programmes to improve WSH
* * * * *
© 2022 Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow. All rights reserved. Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow is incorporated with limited liability and is a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International, a global law firm with member law firms around the world. In accordance with the common terminology used in professional service organizations, reference to a "principal" means a person who is a partner, or equivalent, in such a law firm. Similarly, reference to an "office" means an office of any such law firm. This may qualify as "Attorney Advertising" requiring notice in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.