7 September 2022
On 1 September 2022, Minister for Manpower (“MOM”) announced in a press release the implementation of heightened safety period measures to address the recent spate of workplace fatalities. These measures are meant to strengthen workplace safety and health (“WSH”) and improve WSH oversight.
Companies must conduct the mandatory Safety Time-Out (“STO”) between 1 September 2022 and 15 September 2022. Further, MOM will work together with and support companies in taking greater ownership of WSH during the next six months of “Heightened Safety”, which will span from 1 September 2022 to 28 February 2023, and which may be extended if necessary. Failure to comply with these measures may result in the debarment of employing new foreign employees and Chief Executives being made personally accountable to MOM for rectifications.
Details are set out below.
Measures to increase accountability for companies falling short on safety
For companies that fall short on safety, MOM will increase the accountability of these companies and their senior management. MOM will implement the following measures to complement ongoing efforts:
- Introduce a six-month “Heightened Safety” period: The six-month “Heightened Safety” period will span from 1 September 2022 to 28 February 2023 during which:
- If MOM finds serious WSH lapses such as unsafe workplace conditions or poor risk controls following serious or fatal workplace accidents, MOM may debar companies from employing new foreign employees for up to three months and require Chief Executives to personally account to MOM and take responsibility for rectifications.
- Companies are required to conduct a mandatory STO by allocating time to review their safety procedures and complete the STO activities. The Annex to the press release contains an STO Checklist. The length of the STO should be sufficiently long to review risks corresponding to the scale of operations. Companies must conduct the STO between 1 September 2022 and 15 September 2022. Companies will be debarred from employing new foreign employees for one month if found to be non-compliant with the STO.
- Strengthen support for SMEs who need help to improve WSH practices and processes, through expansion of StartSAFE: Under the existing StartSAFE programme, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have access to WSH consultants who can help companies identify WSH risks and implement good WSH practices. The costs of the WSH consultants are fully borne by MOM. More companies are encouraged to apply for StartSAFE as a follow-up to the STO safety reviews.
- Targeted measures for construction sector from 1 October 2022:
- A new harmonised set of disqualification criteria across all public sector construction tenders to align the evaluation criteria and temporarily disqualify contractors with poor WSH performance from participating in these tenders;
- A Revised Demerit Point System where the threshold for issuing demerit points will be lowered. This means that more demerit points will be issued for Workplace Safety and Health Act 2006 breaches and errant companies with consistently poor WSH performance will reach the penalty thresholds more quickly, after which they will be debarred from hiring foreign employees for up to two years.
- Multi-Sectoral Workplace Safety Taskforce: A Multi-Sectoral Workplace Safety Taskforce will be set up to conduct sectoral deep dives into work practices and industry structures to strengthen safety practices and outcomes. The Taskforce will be able to tap on ideas and advice from an external experts panel, comprising industry representatives and WSH consultants. Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad, will chair the Taskforce, more details of which will be revealed in due course. Agencies involved in the Taskforce will include the Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Trade and Industry.
MOM states that it will support companies who seek to strengthen workplace safety, and cautions that it will not hesitate to take action against companies with serious safety lapses and those found to be at fault for major workplace injuries and deaths.