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Code of practice spelling out bosses' workplace safety responsibilities to be gazetted by Oct

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Manpower on Monday (Sept 19) launched a code of practice outlining the responsibilities of company bosses for workplace safety and health (WSH) standards, on the heels of a worrying spate of deaths and injuries at work this year.

A worker at a construction site along North Bridge Road.

A worker at a construction site along North Bridge Road.

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  • A code of practice outlining responsibilities of bosses over workplace safety standards was officially launched on Monday (Sept 19)
  • First announced earlier this year, the code will be gazetted by the Government in October
  • Compliance to the code can be taken by the courts as a possible mitigating factor in the event of a breach in safety rules
  • The code is the latest effort by the Ministry of Manpower to arrest the worrying spate of workplace-related deaths and major injuries

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Manpower on Monday (Sept 19) launched a code of practice outlining the responsibilities of company bosses for workplace safety and health (WSH) standards, on the heels of a worrying spate of deaths and injuries at work this year.

First announced earlier this year, the Code of Practice (COP) on Chief Executives and Board of Directors’ WSH duties will be gazetted as an approved COP by October.

“This means that in the event of a WSH Act offence, the courts can consider compliance to this Approved COP in their judgement,” said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng at the Singapore WSH Conference at the Singapore Expo on Monday.

The COP comprises four broad principles, namely:

  • Ensuring clarity of top management’s roles and responsibilities in leading safety culture and integrating it into business decisions
  • Setting the tone and demonstrating visible leadership in communicating highly effective safety standards
  • Ensuring effectiveness and regular review of WSH management systems
  • Empowering workers to be actively engaged in WSH

Dr Tan added that the COP will apply to companies across all industries, even those that have no manual work and little risk of physical injury.

SAFETY EMPHASIS MAKES 'BIGGEST' DIFFERENCE

Addressing about 1,100 industry players and partners at the biennial event, Dr Tan said he was disheartened by the “poor” safety record this year.

A total of 37 workplace deaths have been recorded to date since the start of the year, the equivalent to the whole of 2021, with most of them due to preventable safety lapses, said Dr Tan.

MOM’s latest work safety report released on Sept 16 stated that the number of major workplace injuries has stayed elevated in the first half of the year at 297, slightly higher than 294 reported during the second half of 2021.

In his speech, Dr Tan acknowledged that companies are struggling with some of the after-effects of Covid-19 such as tight deadlines and manpower constraints.

While these challenges will continue affecting the industry over the next few months, “addressing them cannot come at the expense of safety”, he said, adding that "for companies that neglect WSH, MOM has no choice but to take a tough stance".

In an immediate effort to tackle the situation, Dr Tan noted the six-month heightened safety period announced by the ministry at the start of the month, which includes upfront debarment from hiring migrant workers if serious workplace safety lapses are found.

Action under the new measures was taken against a company earlier this month after its worker fell through a roof.

However, Dr Tan said structural changes are necessary to sustain safety standards.

He highlighted how some companies stand out from their peers with stellar safety track records, despite dealing with similar workplace risks.

“The biggest reason for this difference is the emphasis on WSH by company directors,” said Dr Tan.

“This is because they are the ones with influence and control over budget, priority and training for WSH,” he said.

Hence, the COP for chief executives and directors will help translate safety principles into actionable steps for companies to adopt.

“For instance, the COP suggests that company directors set WSH as a regular agenda item in board meetings, demand effective WSH standards from suppliers and set up an internal WSH reporting system that assures workers of fair treatment,” said Dr Tan.

“I hope this Approved COP will enable more companies to strengthen their WSH culture and get us back on track towards meeting our WSH performance target.”

Related topics

MOM workplace safety

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