Public Consultation on proposed amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health Act

Ministry of Manpower

Workplace Policy and Strategy Division, Ministry of Manpower

Consultation Period: 28 Jun 2017 - 25 Jul 2017
Status: Closed - Summary of Responses
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Consultation Outcome

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) sought public feedback on the proposed amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health Act, Cap. 354A (WSHA) from 28 June to 25 July 2017. The key points in the feedback and our responses are as follows:

Allow public release of an incident learning report

2. While acknowledging the risk mitigation value from the early release of an incident learning report, there was a request for company and individual identities to be redacted from such reports, so as: 

i) not to prejudice the outcomes of subsequent civil or criminal proceedings; 

ii) to avoid subjecting companies to unwarranted reputational damage; and

iii) to avoid unintentional release of intellectual property or trade secrets. 

3. An incident learning report will only contain information necessary for learning value, and we will consult affected parties before publication.  

Increase maximum fine for breach of Subsidiary Legislation 

4. There was a suggestion to impose penalties in proportion to the contract sum, which would allow for better budgeting. 

5. We believe the current penalties under WSHA1  remain relevant and should be guided by the potential for harm and culpability of the offender, rather than a proportion of the contract sum. These were the principles outlined in a sentencing framework for WSHA offences set out by a 2016 High Court decision.  

6. There was a request to increase the maximum fine of section 17 of the WSH (Medical Examination) Regulations and section 14 of the WSH (Safety and Health Management System and Auditing) from $10,000 to $20,000. 

7. The maximum fine of regulatory requirements are based on considerations which include the potential for harm of the offence. We will assess the merit of increasing the maximum fine of both requirements in our review of subsidiary legislation penalties.  

Remove the requirement for the Commissioner to accredit WSH training providers

8. There were queries about whether WSH training providers can maintain their accreditation under the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) system by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and if the accreditation criteria would result in additional cost impact.

9. As part of the migration of WSH training courses from MOM to the SSG, WSH training providers will need to be re-accredited as the WSQ system has a different accreditation framework from MOM. The WSQ is a national credential system which will raise the quality of the WSH training providers and curriculum. Since 2014, MOM has worked with SSG to prepare WSH training providers for the change in the accreditation framework and criteria2.  

10. In order to ensure high quality training programmes are available to meet the skills needs of our economy, SSG works closely with both local and international partners to deliver high quality training programmes. The appointment of WSH training providers is also made in consultation with the WSH Council.

Other feedback

11. There was a suggestion to revoke the appointment of a responsible person (e.g. director, supervisor) for up to 2 years, if their actions or negligence led to workplace injuries and to revoke the certification of WSH professionals, in the case of a workplace fatality. 

12. Under WSHA, corporate officers, including directors and managers, can already be taken to task for failing their duties to ensure workers’ safety and health. The maximum penalty is $200,000 and 2 years’ imprisonment. The WSHA also allows the Commissioner to suspend or revoke authorised WSH professionals, if they have failed or are negligent in their duties.  

13. A respondent gave feedback that workplace safety and health officers (WSHOs) often lack management support, and suggested mandating that WSHOs report to top management, as well as having more structured and specialised training. 

14. Top management is required under WSHA to take practical and reasonable measures to ensure workers’ safety and health. To avoid the misimpression that mechanically fulfilling certain specific steps (such as mandating mere reporting of WSHOs to the management) would fulfil management’s duties under the WSHA, we have avoided a prescriptive approach to legislation. 

15. The Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO), with the support of MOM, has introduced a career progression pathway (CPP) for WSHOs to further hone their professional development. This includes collaboration with institutes of higher learning, such as the Temasek Polytechnic and National University of Singapore, to develop a structured training programme to support the CPP. In 2015, SISO launched a WSH Leadership Programme under the CPP to groom WSHOs for senior leadership positions. Employers are encouraged to support the professional development of their WSHOs in such initiatives. Nonetheless, we recognise that companies have different operating models, and should be given the flexibility to determine how best to ensure WSH. 

16. There were requests to publicise weekly reports of companies with prosecution records, enforcement records, and fatalities or incidents so that stakeholders are aware of companies’ WSH performance. 

17. We currently already publish the list of offenders convicted under WSHA, and enforcement records of contractors with stop-work-orders, demerit points, and in the Business Under Surveillance (BUS) programme on the MOM website. These records are updated on a monthly basis. Records of companies with workplace fatalities are also published and updated on a yearly basis. 

18. We received a suggestion to require auditing of the amount set aside in safety budgets under the WSH management system. 

19. It is stakeholders’ duty to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure workers’ safety and health which include allocating sufficient WSH budget. As companies differ in scale and complexity, we have allowed flexibility on what are adequate resources and budget allocated for WSH. 

Conclusion

20. MOM would like to thank the contributors who provided their views and feedback during the public consultation.

1For the main Act, the maximum penalty is $500,000 for corporate offenders, and $200,000 with 2 years’ imprisonment for individuals.

2The migration is implemented in phases from 2015 and will complete by 2019.

Detailed Description

AIM

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) invites members of the public to provide feedback on the proposed amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health Act, Cap. 354A (WSHA). 

INTRODUCTION

2. In 2006, MOM enacted the WSHA based on three guiding principles: (i) strengthen industry ownership of workplace safety and health (WSH) outcomes; (ii) ensure sufficiently high penalties to deter non-compliance; and (iii) require stakeholders to eliminate and reduce risks at source. 

3. The workplace fatality rate has declined from 3.1 per 100,000 workers in 2006 to 1.8 in 2014, but crept up to 1.9 in 2015 and 2016.  In response to the stagnating performance, a “WSH 2018 Plus” plan was put together in 2016.  It seeks to improve WSH performance by further strengthening industry ownership of WSH outcomes, and enhancing deterrence through more stringent WSH penalties. Amendments to the WSHA are proposed to support this plan.
 
KEY FEATURES OF PROPOSED WSHA AMENDMENTS

Strengthen Industry Ownership

(a) Allow public release of an incident learning report

5. To prevent recurrence of similar incidents, it can be beneficial to share with industry the detailed investigation findings, including the root causes and recommendations, before prosecutorial actions are taken. To facilitate this, we propose to amend the WSHA to allow the Commissioner for WSH (Commissioner) to make public an incident learning report when necessary, at such time and in such manner as he thinks fit.
 
6. We understand that affected parties may have concerns, particularly if prosecutorial actions are subsequently taken against them. The early release of such findings may prejudice their positions in civil and criminal court proceedings. To address these concerns, we recommend to render the incident learning report inadmissible in any legal proceedings, and to be referenced solely for learning purposes.

7. Following the WSHA amendments, we will promulgate regulations to outline a process for affected parties to comment on the draft report before its release. The regulations shall also set out the formation of an independent team to undertake investigation for such reports, separate from the investigation to establish criminal liability. 

Enhance Deterrence

(b) Increase maximum fine for breach of Subsidiary Legislation 

8. The maximum fine under the WSHA was raised by 1.5 times from $200,000 to $500,000, when the Factories Act (FA) was replaced by the WSHA in 2006. However, the maximum fine under the WSHA subsidiary legislation (SL) was set at a maximum of $20,000, benchmarked to the old FA penalty for offences with potential for harm but where no harm was actually inflicted. This has not been reviewed since the WSHA was enacted. 

9. To enhance deterrence, we recommend increasing the maximum fine under the SL by 1.5 times to $50,000. The new penalty will only be applied to the most serious SL offences that could result in death, serious injury, or dangerous occurrence. We do not intend to increase the penalties for other SL offences.

Technical Amendments

(c) Remove the requirement for the Commissioner to accredit WSH training providers

10. Instead of maintaining an independent accreditation framework, MOM is progressively migrating the accreditation of WSH training providers to nationally recognised training standards by the SkillsFuture Singapore and Singapore Accreditation Council. This will complete by end of 2018. We will therefore remove the requirement for the Commissioner to accredit WSH training providers, with effect from 1 January 2019.

(d) Extend personal liability protection 

11. Under the WSHA, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, inspectors and authorised examiners are accorded protection from legal action for equipment damages during a prescribed examination or test. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are also protected from legal action for duties in relation to a remedial order or stop-work order. To align with other legislation , we propose to extend the scope of personal liability protection for the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, inspectors and authorised officers, to anything done with reasonable care and in good faith in the execution of their duties under the WSHA.

TIMELINE

12. We target for the legislative changes to take effect by December 2017. Only the removal of the requirement for the Commissioner to accredit WSH training providers shall take effect from 1 January 2019.

PERIOD OF CONSULTATION

13. MOM hereby invites members of the public to provide feedback on the proposed amendments to the WSHA as outlined above. The consultation exercise will be held from 28 June 2017 to 25 July 2017.

FEEDBACK CHANNELS

14. We seek your support to ensure that the consultation exercise is productive and focused, and would like to request that respondents:

a. Identify yourself and the organisation you represent (if applicable), as that would assist in our understanding of the impact of the proposed changes on different stakeholder groups; 

b. Make your comments clear and concise; 

c. Identify the specific proposal you are commenting on, and provide your comment on how the proposals/features can be improved or made clearer; and 

d. As far as possible, explain your points with illustrations and examples. 

15. Please submit your feedback through this email address: mom_consultations@mom.gov.sg [Subject Heading: Consultation on Amendments to WSHA (2017)] so that it reaches us directly and facilitates the process of consideration.

16. Alternatively, you can also send your comments through post to: 

Workplace Policy & Strategy Division (Attn: Occupational Safety & Health Unit)
Ministry of Manpower, Singapore 
18 Havelock Road, #06-02
Singapore 059764

17. Please send your comments by 25 July 2017, 6pm. We seek your understanding that comments received after the deadline will not be in time for incorporation to the amendments to the WSHA.

SUMMARY OF RESPONSES

18. All feedback received will be taken into consideration. However, we regret that we will not be able to address every single feedback received. Instead, we will consolidate and publish a summary of the key comments received, together with our responses, on the REACH website after the consultation exercise closes. All feedback will be treated with confidentiality and we will not disclose the identity of the person(s) providing the feedback.

19. Thank you.