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Employers Expected to Take Note of All Accidents

  • The Straits Times (07 February 2008) : Employers Expected to Take Note of All Accidents
  • The Straits Times (28 January 2008) : Why Reporting of All Mishaps at Work is Vital

Employers Expected to Take Note of All Accidents
- The Straits Times, 07 February 2008

Please refer to the forum letter "Why reporting of all mishaps at work is vital" (ST, 28 Jan 2008) by Ms Faye Chiam.

2. The Workplace Safety and Health Act introduced in 2006 makes explicit the responsibility of occupiers and employers for workplace safety and health outcomes. Even though the reporting of minor accidents is not required, the Act stipulates that these stakeholders are responsible for their companies' safety performance. Employers are, therefore, expected to take note of all accidents, including minor ones and near misses. They must also thoroughly investigate the root causes and take measures to prevent similar mishaps. If they do not do this, they are liable to be taken to task for future similar accidents.

3. The recent changes made to the Work Injury Compensation Act would align the reporting requirements with those under the Workplace Safety and Health (Incident Reporting) Regulations. This reduces compliance costs for employers. The revisions are also in line with international best practices. However, even though employers need not report minor accidents, they are still responsible for compensating employees for work-related injuries, even for minor accidents. Under the recently passed Work Injury Compensation Act, if employers fail to pay compensation, they are liable to be fined up to $10,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

Why Reporting of All Mishaps at Work is Vital
- The Straits Times, 28 January 2008

The latest changes to the Workplace Safety and Health Act to increase the scope of coverage and ease of claiming compensation are timely and mostly commendable. However, I noted that under the changes, employers no longer need to report all accidents, including minor ones. Employers will now have to report only work accidents that result in death, or when an injured employee is unfit for work for three consecutive days, or hospitalised for at least 24 hours. Removal of the statutory reporting requirement for minor injuries appears to be a regression from the previous revision to the Act in 2006, which mandated employers to report all workplace-related accidents and injuries.

The rationale of simplifying reporting requirements to reduce compliance costs is weak, considering that the cost of safety is insignificant compared to the damage arising from incidents. Rather than benefiting them, relaxed reporting requirements are, in fact, a disservice to employees by their employers, who may now think accidents are tolerable, as long as they are 'minor'. All accidents, including minor ones, are unacceptable and should be prevented. Such reporting encourages proper disclosure of a company's safety performance, enhances accountability, and promotes transparency of corporate decisions where they may affect occupational health and safety. Reporting of all accidents is an important component in identifying problem areas and preventing future mishaps.

To promote a culture of safety and achieve the Manpower Ministry's target of halving the number of workplace accidents by 2015, requirements for accident reporting ought to be strengthened rather than streamlined.