New legal code for CEOs amid 'poor safety record' in workplaces

In order for safety culture to grow, minister says it starts with the CEO

New legal code for CEOs amid 'poor safety record' in workplaces

Singapore has launched a new code of practice for company leaders in a bid to make them more accountable for their organisation's workplace safety and health (WSH) practices. Manpower Minister Tan See Leng announced the new Code of Practice (COP) on Chief Executives and Board of Directors' WSH Duties during the WSH Conference 2022.

"The COP aims to distil the management principles and practices of safe companies into actionable steps for others to adopt and adapt to their circumstances," said the minister during the press conference.

Tan added the COP can be summarised into four main principles, in which company directors should:

  • Ensure that WSH is integrated into business decisions and there is clarity in their 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 WSH standards;
  • Ensure that WSH management systems are effective and reviewed regularly;
  • Empower workers to be actively engaged in WSH.

Read more: MOM vows to make leaders accountable for workplace hazards

The new code of practice comes after Singapore reported a "poor safety record" so far this year, according to Tan, with 37 workplace fatalities since the beginning of 2022, already equal to the number of fatalities reported in 2021.

"Most of these accidents were due to preventable safety lapses, such as inadequate control measures or lack of adherence to safe work procedures," he said.

In order for WSH culture to grow, Tan said it must start from the chief executive and company directors, citing their influence over budgets and priorities on WSH. "We see this clearly when we compare the WSH performance of companies within the same industry. They deal with similar workplace risks, tap on the same profile of workers; yet some companies consistently have stellar WSH track records compared to their peers, and win WSH Awards year after year," he said. "The biggest reason for this difference is the emphasis on WSH by company directors."

Read more: Singapore streamlines workplace safety rules — here's what employers need to know

The COP will apply to all companies in all industries, even those without major risk of injury, according to Tan, adding that they will be publishing the code by October.

"This means that in the event of a WSH Act offence, the Courts can consider compliance to this Approved COP in their judgment. Adhering to the Approved COP's principles can be a mitigating factor," he said.

"I hope this Approved COP will enable more companies to strengthen their WSH culture and get us back on track towards meeting our WSH performance target."

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