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All Workplaces to be Covered Under Workplace Safety & Health (WSH) Act from 1 September 2011

More than 1.6million workers protected under WSH Act

31 August 2011

  1. From 1 September 2011, all workplaces will be covered under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act. This is a major milestone in Singapore’s WSH journey. First announced in January 2005, the WSH Act was first extended to “factories”1 on 1 March 2006, another six sectors on 1 March 2008 and now to all workplaces from 1 September 20112.
  2. This latest extension brings on board more than 100,000 organisations with over 1.6 million employees, or about half of the Singapore workforce. Companies and employees now covered under the Act will need to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure their workplaces are safe. This includes proper risk management or taking steps to identify and manage the existing risks in one’s workplace so as to prevent work incidents3.

    Key revisions
  3. Besides the coverage extension of the WSH Act, other key changes were also effected. These include:
    • making the duties and obligations of the principals4 and persons at work5 more defined;
    • enhancing the definition of Occupational Diseases6 to include any diseases that are attributable to chemical and biological agent exposure at work; and
    • the WSH (Noise) Regulations taking effect on 1 September 2011 and will include all workplaces to be covered under the regulation.

    For more information on the amended Act and its subsidiary legislations, please refer to Annex A.

    Assistance provided to industry stakeholders
  4. Welcoming the extension, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Alignment Director for WSH and All Nationalities, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said, “The workers now can feel much safer at work now with the WSH knowledge that is available. They now understand the importance of WSH, how it can impact one’s life, and what management can do to improve the standards at the workplace. Also, they can now attend courses to improve their capabilities in order to carry out their work safely and to understand their roles and responsibilities much clearly. Workers can now feel safer knowing that with proper WSH knowledge and good practices, their lives will be safe and they can be more productive too.”
  5. Looking forward, Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman of the WSH Council added, “1 September 2011 marks a high point in Singapore's WSH journey. The Council believes that involving everyone in WSH is the first step to building a national culture that is committed to safety and health. And with that culture, we can achieve significant progress in preventing incidents and unnecessary deaths at work. The extension to all workplaces follows years of engagement by the WSH Council. Specifically, the Council has stepped up our engagement in the past two years through multiple platforms, including face-to-face forums, mall roadshows, creative advertising and even specially trained personnel who visit workplaces to help employees understand about risks at work. This is supported by educational materials that we have produced to raise awareness and knowledge. So far, we are encouraged to see the support by many new companies previously not involved in WSH. Singapore's workforce can be assured that the Council will champion the right for them to have a safe and healthy workplace and employers can count on the Council for support to help them address risks at work."
  6. MOM’s WSH Commissioner Er. Ho Siong Hin reiterated the importance of the WSH Act extension, “The government is committed to ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for every employee in Singapore. To do so, having the WSH Act cover all workplaces is a natural move and we have announced our intent to do so since 2005. However, we have extended the Act in phases over a six-year period to allow industry time to adjust and understand the requirements under the Act. We urge companies which have not yet done so to implement simple risk management measures to prevent work incidents. To do so, they can refer to online tools provided by the WSH Council. We need everyone's support if we want to keep all our workplaces safe for all.”
  7. More information about the WSH Act and online resources on risk management are available on the WSHC website.

1 The term ‘factories’ is being referred to as higher risk workplaces whose work activities present a higher potential for serious accidents.

2 The WSH Act first took effect from 1 March 2006, replacing the decades-old Factories Act. It brings about an enhanced framework built on three key principles – reducing risks at source, engendering industry ownership of WSH outcomes and imposing higher penalties for poor safety management.

3 Under the WSH Act, there is WSH (Risk Management) Regulations which requires stakeholders to take reasonably practicable steps to actively manage workplace risks by eliminating, minimising or controlling these risks.

4 Principals are those who engage the services of contractors for specialised tasks or engage the services of workers from third-party labour suppliers.

5 Any person at work, including an employee, i.e., one employed under a contract of service, volunteer or any other person training or working under the employer. Under the new enhancement of the Act, MOM will take to task workers who acted negligently in the workplace.

6 The amended Act will broaden the definition of an Occupational Disease to include diseases that can be attributed to any exposure to any chemical or biological agent at work.

Annex A - Fact Sheet On Enhancements To The WSH Act and Subsidiary Regulations