23 September 2022
On 19 September 2022, the Workplace Safety and Health Council (“WSH Council”) announced the launch of the Code of Practice on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Duties (“COP”) by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng at the Singapore WSH Conference 2022. A set of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) about the COP has also been issued. The COP will be gazetted as an Approved Code of Practice (“ACOP”) by October 2022.
Rationale for COP
As chief executives and the board of directors of companies (“Company Directors”) steer the operations and oversee management of their organisations, their influence and control over their workplace resources and priorities ultimately drive WSH practices at workplaces.
The COP aims to provide clarity on and strengthen ownership of Company Directors’ WSH roles and duties. Company Directors include the chief executives or equivalent officers involved in executive decisions capable of affecting the company as a whole or a substantial part of it. This is regardless of their title and whether he or she is a member of the entity’s board of directors.
Where an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act 2006 (“WSH Act”) has been committed by a body corporate, section 48(1) of the WSH Act holds Company Directors responsible for ensuring their workers’ safety and health and to prove that they had exercised all such diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
The COP outlines the desired outcomes in organisational systems and culture that Company Directors should seek to achieve in order to comply with the WSH Act, and lists examples of reasonably practicable steps that Company Directors can take in this regard.
Principles and measures set out in COP
The COP sets out principles and measures that describe how Company Directors can demonstrate leadership in improving WSH performance and management:
- Principle 1: Ensure WSH is integrated into business decisions with clarity of the roles and responsibilities of the chief executive and individual members of the board of directors in leading WSH, e.g. assign and document WSH roles and responsibilities of individual Company Director(s).
- Principle 2: Continuously build a strong WSH culture, set the tone and demonstrate visible leadership in embodying and communicating highly effective WSH standards, e.g. set WSH as a regular agenda item in management/board meetings, and demand effective WSH standards and performance from vendors and partners.
- Principle 3: Ensure that WSH management systems are highly effective and reviewed regularly, e.g. ensure suitable, adequate and timely risk assessment, and recognise and reward workers’ efforts towards achieving good WSH performance.
- Principle 4: Empower workers to actively engage in WSH, e.g. ensure processes are in place for workers to receive information on WSH risks and safe work procedures in a timely manner.
The Minister has said that the COP will apply to companies in all industries, including those that have no manual work and little risk of physical injury. This is because WSH covers both safety and health, which includes mental well-being. Companies should apply the COP principles to protect both the physical safety and mental well-being of workers.
The COP also lists available resources that can assist Company Directors in their efforts to uphold WSH standards at their workplaces.
COP to be gazetted by October 2022
The COP will be gazetted as an ACOP by October 2022. It is explained in the FAQs that ACOPs provide guidance for companies to attain the outcome stated in a regulation. In the event of a contravention of the Act, compliance with the recommendations in the ACOP may be a mitigating factor for the court’s consideration.
From 12 August 2022 to 8 September 2022, the WSH Council conducted a public consultation and sought feedback on a draft of the COP.