SINGAPORE – Companies should make workplace safety a regular item on the agenda of board meetings and demand effective safety standards from suppliers, under a code of practice that will be gazetted next month to give it teeth.

The code, which is meant to improve the workplace safety culture in Singapore, also includes measures like setting up internal reporting systems that assure workers of fair treatment. It comes on the heels of a spate of workplace fatalities this year, with 37 deaths to date.

Launching the Approved Code of Practice on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) duties on Monday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng reiterated that it is critical for companies to prioritise safety in spite of the challenges brought on by Covid-19.

“For a strong WSH culture to germinate, grow and flourish, it must start from the top – with the chief executive and company directors. This is because they are the ones with influence and control over budget, priority and training,” he said at the Singapore WSH Conference held at Singapore Expo.

The new code of practice aims to distil good safety management principles and practices into actionable steps for others to adopt and adapt, Dr Tan said.

Gazetting the code means that if a company commits an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the courts can consider compliance to these measures in their judgment.

Conversely, adhering to the main principles outlined in the code can be considered a mitigating factor, Dr Tan said.

He added that the code of practice will apply to companies in all industries, even those that have no manual work and little risk of physical injury. This is because workplace safety and health also includes the mental well-being of workers.

The measures outlined in the code are meant to integrate workplace safety into company processes and establish clear responsibilities for management, Dr Tan said.

He hopes the code will strengthen the workplace safety culture in more companies, and “get us back on track towards meeting our WSH performance target”.