The Workplace Safety and Health Act is an essential part of the new framework to cultivate good safety habits in all individuals so as to engender a strong safety culture in our workplace.It requires stakeholders to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of workers and other people that are affected by the work being carried out.
The Workplace Safety and Health Framework
The three guiding principles that underpin the Workplace Safety & Health framework are:
- Reducing risks at source by requiring all stakeholders to eliminate or minimise the risks they create;
- Instilling greater ownership of safety and health outcomes by industry; and
- Preventing accidents through higher penalties for poor safety management
The Workplace Safety and Health Act has four key features:
- it places the responsibility for workplace safety on all stakeholders along lines of control at the workplace
- it focuses on Workplace Safety & Health systems and outcomes, rather than merely on compliance
- it facilitates effective enforcement through the issuance of remedial orders
- it imposes higher penalties for non-compliance and risky behaviour.
What the Act covers:
A) All workplaces, unless exempted by the WSH Act
The Workplace Safety & Health Act covers all factories and workplaces of various risk levels and industries.
A workplace is any premises where a person carries out work or is to work. Some of these workplaces are further classified as a factory. The following premises types are considered as factories:
- any premises using an assembly-line manufacturing process in connection with the manufacturing, for the purposes of trade or gain, of any goods or products using mechanical power, not being a restaurant or kitchen.
- any premises used for the manufacturing, for the purposes of trade or gain, of fabricated metal products, machinery or equipment.
- any premises used for the manufacturing, for the purposes of trade or gain, of wood products using mechanical power.
- any premises used for the production of gas for commercial sale.
- any premises used for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products or its intermediates.
- any premises where the printing by letter press, offset, lithography, photogravure, rotogravure or other similar process, or the binding of such printed materials, is carried out.
- any premises where mechanical power is used in connection with the sorting, packing, handling or storing of articles.
- any premises used for the processing or manufacturing of flammable, corrosive or toxic substances, including petroleum, petroleum products, petrochemical or petrochemical products.
- any premises where the treatment, coating or electroplating of metal products involving the use of flammable, corrosive or toxic substances is carried out.
- any premises where the washing or filling of bottles, containers or vessels that contains or had contained flammable, corrosive or toxic substances is carried out, not being any premises where the filling of fuel into vehicles for their propulsion is carried out as a commercial undertaking.
- any premises used for the storage of gas (including liquefied gas) in a container having a storage capacity of not less than 140 cubic metres, not being any premises where the gas is stored for filling of fuel into vehicles for their propulsion as a commercial undertaking.
- any premises used for the bulk storage of toxic or flammable liquid (excluding liquefied gas) in a container, not being an underground container, that has a storage capacity of not less than 5,000 cubic metres.
- any yard (including any dock, wharf, jetty, quay and the precincts thereof) where the construction, reconstruction, repair, refitting, finishing or breaking up of ships is carried out, including the waters adjacent to any such yard where the construction, reconstruction, repair, refitting, finishing or breaking up of ships is carried out by or on behalf of the occupier of that yard.
- any premises where the construction, reconstruction or repair of locomotives, aircraft, vehicles or other plant for use for transport purposes is carried on as ancillary to a transport undertaking or other industrial or commercial undertaking, not being any premises used for the purpose of housing locomotives, aircraft or vehicles where only cleaning, washing, running repairs or minor adjustments are carried out.
- any premises where building operations or any work of engineering construction are carried out.
- any premises where articles are made or prepared incidentally to the carrying on of any building operations or any work of engineering construction, not being premises in which such operations or work are being carried out.
- any premises where work is carried out for or in connection with the generating of electrical energy for supply by way of trade or for purposes of gain.
- Any premises where mechanical power is used for the purposes of or in connection with a water supply.
- any sewage works where mechanical power is used and any pumping station used in connection therewith.
B) Responsibilities of Stakeholders
The Workplace Safety & Health Act defines the responsibilities for the following stakeholder groups:
If you are an employer
You must, as far as reasonably practicable, protect the safety and health of employees or workers working under your direct control, as well as all who may be affected by their work. Your duties include:
- conducting risk assessments to remove or control risks to workers at the workplace
- maintaining safe work facilities and arrangements for the workers at work
- ensuring safety in machinery, equipment, plant, articles, substances and work processes at the workplace;
- developing and implementing control measures for dealing with emergencies;
- providing workers with adequate instruction, information, training and supervision.
If you are a principal
You are required to take, so far as is reasonably practical, such measures as are necessary to ensure that the contractor you engaged:
- has the competency to carry out the work you engaged them for;
- has taken adequate safety and health measures necessary in relation to any machinery, equipment, plant, article or process used by the contractor or the contractor’s employees.
- However, if you are involved in directing the work of your contractors or subcontractors you hired, your duties are the same as that of an employer.
Note: A principal is any person or organization who engages another person or organization to supply labour or perform work under a contract for service.
If you are an occupier
You must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure that the workplace, all entrances to and exits from the workplace, and all machinery, equipment, plants, articles and substances within are safe and without risk to the health of any person within those premises, even if the person is not one of your employees.
As an occupier, you may also be responsible for the common areas used by your employees and contractors. Occupier of the common area is responsible for the following:
- electric generators and motors located in the common area
- hoists and lifts, lifting gear, lifting appliances and lifting machines located in the common area
- means of entry into or exit from the common area
- any machinery or plant located in the common area
If you are a manufacturer or supplier
You must ensure that any machinery, equipment or substances you provide is safe for use. You are required to:
- provide proper information on the safe use of the machinery, equipment or hazardous substance
- ensure that the machinery, equipment or hazardous substance is safe for use
- ensure that the machinery, equipment or hazardous substance has been tested and examined so that it is safe for use
- If you are an installer or erector of machinery
You must ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that all machinery and equipment erected, installed or modified is safe and without health risks when properly used.
If you are an employee
- You must follow the safe working procedures and principles introduced at the workplace.
- You must not engage in any unsafe act that may endanger yourself or others working around you.
- You must use, in proper manner, any personal protective equipment, devices, equipments or other means provided to secure your safety, health and welfare while working. You must not tamper or misuse such items provided.
- You must not engage in any negligent act that may endanger yourself or others working around you.
If you are self-employed
Even though you are self-employed, you are still required to take measures, as far as reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety and health of others, such as members of the public.
C) Hazardous Substances
The following are classified as hazardous substances under the Workplace Safety and Health Act:
- Corrosive substances
- Flammable substances
- Gases under pressure
- Organic peroxides
- Oxidising substances
- Pyrophoric substances
- Self-heating substances
- Self-reactive substances
- Substances hazardous to aquatic environment.
- Substances which in contact with water, or emit flammable gases
- Toxic substances
D) Machinery and Equipment
Manufacturers and suppliers of the following machinery & equipment have the duty to ensure they are safe for use:
- Scaffolds and any materials or components used to erect them
- Lifting equipment
- Power presses
- Equipment or piping intended for operation under pressure, including all statutory pressure vessels
- Equipment or piping intended to contain corrosive, toxic or flammable substances
- Welding equipment, including any accessory, apparatus or fitting necessary to enable its use
- Materials or components used for the construction of support structures
- Explosive powered tools
- Equipment used for abrasive blasting, including any accessory, apparatus or fitting necessary to enable its use and operation
WSH Competency Standards
Developing Competencies through Training
Employers are required to ensure that employees of all levels i.e. workers, supervisors, managers, and WSH Personnel possess basic Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) competencies. WSH competencies enable employees to:
- Recognise potentially hazardous situations;
- Know their responsibilities under the WSH Act; and
- Know their roles in creating safe work conditions.
Such competencies can be developed through formal courses or on-the-job training. More information about the competency standards and training courses are available below:
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), have developed a set of generic competency standards for employees of all levels.
Generic Competency Standards
The module on generic competency standards, under WDA’s Employability Skills System (ESS), is part of the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) System.
The generic competency standards for employees of various levels are as follows:
Employees should be able to:
- Follow safe work practices and risk control procedures
- Participate in workplace safety and health management activities
- Follow workplace emergency response procedures
Supervisors should be able to:
- Interpret workplace safety and health policies, procedures and programmes
- Educate workers on workplace safety and health policies, procedures and programmes
- Implement and control workplace safety and health management programmes
- Implement workplace risk management programmes
- Maintain workplace risk control measures
Managers should be able to:
- Identify responsibilities under Workplace Safety & Health Act
- Establish and maintain workplace safety and health framework
- Establish and evaluate workplace safety and health system, policies, procedures and programmes
- Establish workplace risk management procedures
- Manage workplace risk control measures