Amendments to Workplace Safety and Health Act proposed

Firms may face stiffer fines for safety lapses

Amendments to Workplace Safety and Health Act proposed
The government has proposed amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act, as the Singapore ramps up efforts to keep employees safe in the workplace.

Singapore’s workplace fatal injury rates remained stable while non-fatal workplace injuries increased in 2016. The workplace fatality rate remained at 1.9 per 100,000 employed persons while non-fatal injuries increased by 5.4%.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the “stagnating performance” has led authorities to launch WSH 2018 Plus initiative, which seeks to strengthen industry ownership of WSH outcomes, and enhance deterrence through more stringent WSH penalties. Amendments to the WSH Act are also included.

Among other things, the proposals call for the WSH Commissioner to release to the public an “incident learning report” before prosecutorial actions are taken against firms. “Early release of the incident learning report will be key to preventing any recurrence of similar incidents,” said MOM. “To allay affected parties’ concerns, the report will be made inadmissible in any legal proceedings.”

Authorities also aim to hike the maximum fine under the WSHA Subsidiary Legislation from $20,000 to $50,000. MOM said this will be applied to the “most serious” offences that could result in death, serious injury, or dangerous occurrence.

The ministry has invited the public to provide feedback on thepropsals, which can be accessed in their entirety on the REACH website until 25 July. The government aims to have the changes take effect by December this year.

MOM has identified three “priority areas” to help improve workplace safety and health standards (WSH) for 2017 – falls prevention, onsite vehicular safety, and prevention of amputation injuries.
Latest claims data from insurer AIG Singapore as of April 2017 revealed that the highest risks facing employees are:
  • slips and trips (21%)
  • contact with stationary machinery or objects (12%)
  • traffic accidents (7%)
  • falls from height (5%)
The insurer said most accidents lead to finger and hand injuries including fractures, as well as back injuries. Back strains and fractures were among the most costly.

“Whilst finger and hand injuries may not sound serious, they lead to downtime for both employees and employers which can be prevented with the incorporation of a strong safety and wellness culture within the organisation,” said Debra Burford, AIG Singapore’s head of liabilities.

“In the face of headwinds and fewer projects, we have seen that companies are facing increasing and unnecessary exposure in workplace safety and health, with less focus on safety measures and some firms even going against the law by not buying work injury insurance,” she added.

Related stories:
Singapore workplace safety a “significant risk” over next 12 months – report
“Operations Roadrunner” revealed to step up workplace vehicular safety

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