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The Code details the organisational systems and culture to be implemented by directors of all companies to show full compliance with the Workplace Safety and Health Act 2006.

In brief

The Code of Practice: Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ Workplace Safety and Health Duties (“Code“) will, when gazetted in October 2022, apply to all directors and equivalent officers involved in policy making and executive decisions for business affairs of companies in all industries, even for companies which have no manual work and little risk of physical injury.

While this Code is not mandatory, MOM will consider directors who adopt its principles and measures to have taken reasonably practicable measures to uphold their workers’ safety and health. In prosecutions for offences under the existing Workplace Safety and Health Act 2006 (WSHA 2006), directors may show proof of compliance with the Code as a mitigating factor for the court’s consideration.

We provide below the background to this Code and a summary of the four principles and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) measures as to management conduct and policy making, diligence, disclosure and reporting, budget, and dedicated staffing to be adopted by individual directors on a continuing basis.


Background

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.

Recommended actions

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 makingEstablish the WSH policy, standards and strategic goals for the organisationSet WSH as a regular agenda item in management/board meetingsReview, endorse and track the organisation’s WSH targets and performance regularlyFacilitate direct reporting of WSH issues to the director(s)Ensure suitable, adequate and timely risk assessmentEndorse immediate remedial/disciplinary actions to address workers’ repeated non-compliance with safe work proceduresSet and demand effective WSH standards and performance from vendors and partners
Diligence and trainingAcquire WSH knowledgeEnsure processes are in place for workers to receive information on WSH risks and safe work procedures in a timely mannerConduct worker engagements to understand processes and workers’ concerns, and communicate the need to prioritise WSHEnsure effectiveness of WSH management systems and maintain oversight of compliance with safe work procedures
Disclosure and reportingPublish the organisation’s WSH commitmentSet up reporting systems, encourage proactive reporting and ensure proper follow-up to address WSH issues
Budget and resourcingEnsure sufficient resource allocation to WSHCommit resources and protected time for workers to undergo WSH training and refresher coursesRecognise and reward workers’ efforts toward achieving good WSH performance
StaffingAssign and document WSH roles and responsibilities of individual director(s)Involve workers in the joint development and implementation of strategies/programmes to improve WSH

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Author

Celeste is a principal in our Dispute Resolution and Employment Practice Groups. Her practice encompasses corporate and commercial dispute resolution, investigations and compliance. She has significant experience acting for global clients in cross-border disputes and advising clients on ethics & compliance and regulatory issues in the context of risks analysis and mitigation and cross-border investigations. Celeste also has a particular focus in employment, particularly contentious employment work and employee investigations.
Celeste has been recognised as a 'Litigation Star' in the Labor and Employment space by Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific 2023 and has been ranked Band 1 in Employment in Singapore by Chambers Asia-Pacific since 2019 to date. A client has commended Celeste for being "a fantastic partner who knows our industry well and has been our first contact for external legal work for many years." Celeste is also ranked as a Leading Individual in Labour and Employment in Singapore by Legal 500 Asia Pacific since 2019 and noted by clients as "an experienced litigator with a very sound knowledge of the law, who is also able to consider the client’s commercial concerns when providing advice" and in the foreign firms section as "great at connecting her entire network when the client needs additional service outside Singapore."

Author

Kelvin is a principal in the Corporate & Securities, Investment Funds and Employment Practice Groups in Singapore. Kelvin is recognised by various legal publications as a leading lawyer for investment funds and employment in Singapore.

Author

Ng Zhao Yang is a local principal in the Employment Practice Group of Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow in Singapore. He has over 10 years of experience advising regional and multinational clients on employment law and immigration matters in Singapore.
He is recognised as an “Up and Coming” individual by Chambers & Partners Asia-Pacific 2024 in the Singapore Employment: Domestic category. Clients who spoke to Chambers described him as “very responsive,” “well-versed" and "provides technically strong and commercial advice." He is also recognised as a “Next Generation Partner” by The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2024 in Singapore, in the Labour and employment: Local firms and Foreign firms categories.

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