It is fitting that company leaders can and will be prosecuted if they are culpable for workplace safety and health (WSH) lapses. To that end, compliance with an upcoming code of practice outlining their duties will be considered by the courts in the event of an offence. The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) for Company Directors' WSH Duties will be published later this year, with public consultations set to begin this month. This step, mentioned in Parliament, puts managements and boards on notice. The law already places WSH responsibilities on company leadership. With the code, corporate leaders and boards of directors will be guided on their WSH responsibilities, including conducting ground engagements and communicating the need to prioritise WSH. ACOP's legislative teeth should leave company leaders in no doubt about their liability in the event of workplace accidents, and hence their need to treat their WSH responsibilities with the seriousness that they deserve.
This awareness is crucial particularly in the light of an unacceptable rise in workplace fatalities and injuries after the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 31 work-related deaths so far this year, the most over the same period since 2016 and more than the 30 deaths recorded in the whole of 2020. One palpable reason behind the recent spate of accidents is the rush to catch up on work, and the corresponding suspicion that some employers could be pushing workers too hard, to the point of making them work towards their deaths, as has been said. Such attitudes go against the WSH standards to which Singapore should be held.