Three fundamental principles supporting the Occupational Safety and Health (“OSH”) framework are:
- reducing risks at their source by requiring stakeholders to eliminate or minimise the risks said sources create;
- instilling greater ownership (i.e. sense of responsibility) of safety and health outcomes by industry; and
- preventing accidents through the imposition of higher penalties for poor safety management.
(a) Workplace Safety and Health Act
WSHA is the key legislation affecting the philosophy of this OSH framework. The WSHA covers all workplaces. The WSHA stipulates that every person must take measures “so far as is reasonably practicable” to ensure the safety and health of every workplace and every person within those premises. The 4 key features of the WSHA are:
- It places responsibilities on stakeholders who have it within their control to ensure safety at the workplace;
- It focuses on workplace safety and health systems and outcomes, rather than merely on compliance;
- It facilitates effective enforcement through the issuance of remedial orders; and
- It imposes higher penalties for non-compliance and risky behaviour.
(b) Work Injury Compensation Act (“WICA”)
Under the WICA, compensation is payable to or for the benefit of the ‘employee’ or, where death results from the injury, to the deceased employee’s estate or for the benefit of his dependents. The term ‘employee’ under the WICA means any person who has entered into or works under a contract of service or apprenticeship with the employer. The injury must be an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.
Persons who are liable to pay compensation include the employer and the principal. While the employee cannot claim compensation under the Act against third party wrong doers, third parties such as insurers may be called upon to indemnify the employer/principal who has paid compensation to the employee. It is not possible for the employer to contract out of his obligations to pay work injury compensation.
It should be noted that an employer is required to buy work injury compensation insurance for all local and foreign employees doing manual work (regardless of salary level), and those doing non-manual work who earn less than S$1,600 a month. For other employees, the employer has the option to decide whether to purchase such insurance but if a valid claim is made by these employees, the employer will have to compensate them regardless whether they are insured. Failure to provide adequate insurance is an offence carrying a fine of up to S$10,000 or jail of up to 12 months, or both.
Please note that this section of the Employment Law Guide is a summary provided for general information purposes, aimed at aiding understanding of Singapore’s employment law as at the date of writing. It is not exhaustive or comprehensive and reading this memorandum is not a substitute for reading the text of the various statutes to fully understand the extent of the obligations owed. This guide should also not be relied upon as legal advice.
Get To Know The Authors
Pradeep acts for corporations, whether they are private or listed companies, on all aspects of their business including advice and drafting of documentation on investments, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions and restructurings. With Pradeep co-heading the Employment and Immigration team, The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2020 has commented that CNPLaw has “a solid reputation” for assisting local and foreign clients, who are employers or employees, with a range of issues.
Pei-Ling has over 23 years of experience in corporate and cross-border transactions, and has advised on investments, joint-ventures and commercial transactions in Singapore and Malaysia. Over the years, she has also developed a practice in the areas of data protection, technology and employment.