Workplace safety is responsibility of employers

We thank Ms Dipa Swaminathan and Mr Rajasegaran Ramasamy for their feedback (Consider stiffer measures to deter work safety breaches, July 17; and Developers must get involved in safety meetings too, July 21).

Ms Dipa proposed filing criminal charges against company directors when accidents happen.

We already do so. Failure to take adequate measures to ensure the safety and health of workers is a criminal offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA).

Since 2014, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has prosecuted 27 individuals under the WSHA, of which 13 were company directors.

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Ms Dipa also proposed requiring companies with safety breaches to have an escrow account with funds awarded to injured workers, in addition to Work Injury Compensation (WIC).

The current WIC system, where employers are liable for compensation regardless of fault, already provides an expeditious framework for WIC. Compensation limits are also reviewed regularly.

That said, we will consider working with the insurance industry to place a heavier financial responsibility on unsafe companies, for example through higher WIC insurance premiums.

Mr Rajasegaran's suggestion to have independent WSH officers runs counter to the principle of greater industry ownership in accident prevention.

Employers are ultimately responsible for workplace safety and health. They should work with and empower their WSH officers to drive workplace safety and health improvements on the ground.

We would also like to clarify that developers are not exempted from the WSHA.

Since Aug 1 last year, developers have been obligated to incorporate safety into project design and planning.

Developers are also not prevented from being part of the Project Safety Coordination Committee.

Ho Siong Hin
Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health
Ministry of Manpower

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'Workplace safety is responsibility of employers'. Print Edition | Subscribe