MOM vows to make leaders accountable for workplace hazards

Singapore targets errant employers in implementing workplace safety

MOM vows to make leaders accountable for workplace hazards

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is developing a new code of practice for company leaders in a bid to strengthen their accountability in cases of unsafe work practices.

In a written parliamentary reply, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said they are developing a new Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) for Company Directors' Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Duties "to provide clarity and practical guidance on how to fulfil their legal obligations."

"Companies' compliance to the ACOP or lack thereof can be used by the Courts to take action against company leaders and its board of directors in the event of a WSH Act offence," said Tan.

It comes as MOM puts more teeth against errant employers when it comes to implementing safe practices in the workplace as of late.

"Employers must do their part, as required under the law. MOM has been taking stronger enforcement actions and has introduced stiffer penalties against errant employers, which includes fines and/or imprisonment for company leaders," said Tan.

According to the minister, about 84% of MOM's inspections in the past 12 months resulted in fines and stop work orders. This points to the ministry's commitment in listening to public's reports, where MOM receives about 2,400 to 3,800 anonymous reports on unsafe acts in the workplace annually.

"MOM takes every report seriously. MOM assesses each feedback, inspects the workplace where needed, and ensures that the company makes the required rectifications," said Tan.

Employees are further encouraged to report cases of unsafe workplace conditions or acts to their supervisors or employers - or they could head directly to MOM, according to the minister.

They may also approach their union leaders as well as non-government organisations who can work with their employers to ensure that appropriate rectifications can be made, he added, stressing that those who will report unsafe workplace cases will be protected and will not be dismissed by their employer.

"The identities of whistle blowers are kept confidential. Employers are also not permitted to dismiss or threaten to dismiss workers who have reported workplace safety and health issues and MOM will take action if they are reported to have done so."

Read more: Tan implores employers to improve workplace safety

Singapore has been working to meet its 2028 goal of reducing workplace fatality rate to below one per 100,000 workers. In 2021, workplace fatal injury rate has been reduced to 1.1 per 100,000 workers.

In the first six months of 2022, however, Tan noted that there has been a "worrying spate of 28 workplace fatalities," higher than the 17 cases in the same period in pre-COVID 2019.

"I urge all companies to take time to review your WSH processes, use the WSH Alerts on the learning points from recent fatalities to reinforce the importance of safety to your workers, and implement the necessary control measures. MOM together with the WSH Council, will continue to work closely with industry associations, employers, and workers."

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