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Companies to Pay Higher Fines for Serious Safety Lapses

November 9, 2017

From Jan 1, the law will come down harder on firms that neglect their worker’s safety. Under the new policy passed in the Parliament on Monday (Nov 6), companies found to be guilty could pay up to $50k for serious workplace safety breaches.

Minister of State for Manpower, Sam Tan said that such hazardous practices include the firms’ failure to provide protective structures that prevent falls as well as not appointing authorised people to supervise dangerous works. If companies are proved to have multiple safety lapses that might cause serious harm or even death, they will face bulkier fines up to $50,000 per offence, a significant increase from $20,000. The higher fine is among changes in the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act and its subsidiary legislation.

Regarding to the changes, Mr Tan said that it aims to stop unsafe work practices before any accidents happen. The step follows the increasing number of such potentially serious cases that has doubled from 13 in 2013 to 26 in 2016. For the time being, the ministry issues composition fines and stop-work orders to misbehaving companies, Straits Times reports.

He also noted that most of the higher penalties imposed took place only after serious harm had occurred. For such cases, the fines could go up to $500,000 per offence. While the ministry can penalize the companies, this might be too late for the injured or deceased workers and their families. Owing to this, prevention remains to be the better option to protect against loss of lives and livelihoods.

See: New Schemes to Help Injured Workers Get Back to Work

From Jan 1, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) can also share recommendations and provide learning points from accidents before the conclusion of criminal proceedings are made, in which the whole process could take as long as three years from the date of the accident. The change will allow steps to be taken quickly to prevent further accidents in the future.

Mr Tan pointed out that the learning reports will not be admissible in court proceedings. The names of companies and individuals will not be mentioned and there will be no statements of liability in the reports, as following similar practices in the United States and Britain.

Additionally, safety inspectors and enforcement officers will get greater protection to do their work without the fear of being sued for damaging property, as long as they can demonstrate good faith and reasonable care in carrying out their tasks. Previously, inspectors were covered only for equipment damage following inspection or testing. This expanded protection could help them in cases where they need to gain entry into a property, or if the advice they give to the company results in damage during the implementation.

In a bid to keep to WSH courses and teaching methods up to date, their accreditation will be shifted from MOM to SkillsFuture Singapore, which supervises the national Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) system. This change will take effect on Jan 1, 2019, and is in line with the shift of the WSH courses to the WSQ system by 2019.

Read also: Absenteeism to Cost Singapore’s Productivity S$3.3 Billion by 2030: Study Findings

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