Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act Guide

Workplace accidents have become prevalent, as statistics show that every 15 seconds, a worker suffers from a work-related accident globally. In Singapore, organizations witnessed 11,222 workplace injuries reported in the first quarter of 2023, which is in accordance with the workplace safety and health report released by the Ministry of Manpower.

Recognizing the critical importance of safeguarding workers’ well-being, the nation prioritizes workplace safety and health through a comprehensive legal framework – the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSH). This Act isn’t just about safeguarding employees; it empowers businesses to cultivate a culture of safety, fostering a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

This Workplace Safety and Health Act Guide serves as a resource for employers, employees, and modern HR teams who seek to understand how to navigate their WSH-mandated rights and responsibilities.

What is Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act?

The Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSH) is a legislation set by the Singapore government to regulate health and safety in the workplace. 

The Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace, a process of investigation of complaints of unfair practices, and a process of workplace inspections. 

Who is covered by the Workplace Safety and Health Act?

The Workplace Safety and Health Act covers the following:

  • Safety, health, and welfare of employees at the workplace.
  • Responsibilities of stakeholders: The WSH Act outlines the responsibility of each stakeholder group — such as employees, employers, occupiers, and self-employed — in relation to maintaining and promoting a safe company culture. They are required to take practicable measures to ensure safety and health in the workplace. 
  • Hazardous substances: These are substances that pose a significant risk to a worker’s health and safety. Some of which include carcinogens, explosives, irritants, etc. By regulating and managing the use, handling, and disposal of hazardous substances in the workplace. The act aims to minimize these risks and ensure a safe working environment for employees. The Workplace Safety and Health Act has provided a list of these substances on their website. 
  • Machinery and equipment: In today’s world, workplaces utilize machinery and equipment to improve efficiency. The Workplace Safety and Health Act covers the following equipment and machinery. This requirement is in place to prioritize the safety of workers and prevent accidents or injuries caused by unsafe machinery and equipment in the workplace. Compliance with the Workplace Safety and Health Act helps to reduce risks, protect employees, and promote a safe working environment.

Why should occupational safety be a top priority for employers?

In a bid to achieve a safer and more productive workplace, the Singaporean government published a WSH 2028 report outlining strategies and outcomes that will be taken to achieve this goal.

The said report shows that in the past, there have been more workplace accidents linked to dizziness or loss of consciousness that stem from poorly managed chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and hyperlipidemia (high LDL cholesterol).

Ill health and poor health management in the workplace impact safety, and this is because employees who experience dizziness or loss of consciousness due to poorly managed chronic conditions are at risk of injury to themselves and others. These accidents can result in serious harm, medical expenses, and potential legal liabilities for the employer. 

In addition, workplace accidents can lead to productivity loss as these accidents disrupt workflow. Employees are therefore unable to work if they suffer from injuries or health-related issues. The reputation of the company is tarnished when there is negative publicity surrounding safety accidents. This can deter potential employees, clients, and investors. 

These issues can be prevented by making employee health and safety a top concern. Prioritizing safety demonstrates care for employees’ well-being, fosters a positive work culture, and improves morale. Employees are more likely to remain loyal to companies that prioritize their safety and well-being. They can also mitigate legal issues and costs, as failure to comply with this legislation can result in paying fines, and in some cases, imprisonment. 

Overall, prioritizing occupational safety not only protects employees from harm but also benefits employers by avoiding financial losses, maintaining a positive reputation, and fostering a productive work environment.

Relevant reads: Leveraging Singapore’s Mental Well-Being Programs to Improve Employee Mental Health

Key Duties of Stakeholders

The Workplace Safety and Health Act has outlined the duties of each stakeholder, holding them accountable to the most stringent standards for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace, these include: 


  • Risk management: This involves identifying risk hazards and implementing control measures to mitigate the risk to the health and safety of your workers.
  • Safe work procedures: In line with the Workplace Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for making the workplace safe by following safe work procedures.
  • Training and information: Training and information empower employees to recognize and respond to workplace hazards effectively, enhancing their safety awareness and preparedness. Employers should provide adequate training materials and information on occupational health and safety procedures.
  • Supervision and maintenance: Employers are to ensure proper supervision of work activities and maintain equipment, machinery, and facilities in a safe working condition. This helps to prevent malfunctions, breakdowns, and accidents, preserving a safe working environment for employees.
  • Incident reporting: The Workplace Safety and Health Act states that there should be systems set up for reporting and investigating workplace incidents, injuries, near misses, and hazards to prevent such occurrences in the future. Employers should work towards creating an environment where every employee can freely discuss safety problems and report incidents. 


  • Adhere to safe work procedures: Employees are to follow established work procedures and protocols for each task or activity. They should also be allowed to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their coworkers by adhering to safety rules at all times.
  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The Workplace Safety and Health Act states that employees are also required to use appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves from workplace hazards. This minimizes the likelihood of injuries or exposure to harmful substances. 
  • Report unsafe conditions: If there is any occurrence of hazards, unsafe conditions, or near misses, employees should report to the supervisor or safety personnel available. 
  • Take reasonable care: Employees are to exercise reasonable care for their health and safety and also to that of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions in the workplace. This also includes deliberate actions towards following safety instructions and guidelines provided by supervisors. In addition, to also improve their safety knowledge and skills, they should participate in safety and training programs. 

These duties are essential for promoting a culture of safety, preventing accidents and injuries, and ensuring compliance with occupational health and safety regulations. Collaboration between employers and employees is crucial to creating and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.

What is the right to refuse unsafe work?

The right to refuse unsafe work means you, as an employee, can say no to a task if you reasonably believe it poses a danger to yourself or others. This is protected by the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

Here, we’ll break down what this means and the steps to take if you encounter an unsafe situation at work.

Employee’s right

If an employee perceives that their health and safety are threatened in the workplace, they reserve the right to report any unsafe conditions to their supervisors, health and safety personnel, or authorities. According to the Workplace Safety and Health Act, employees have the right to request information about occupational safety and health standards if they aren’t sure what they’re entitled to.

Work refusals for safety and health reasons may be carried out by one worker acting alone, or they may be taken by any number of workers. It is important to know that reporting unsafe work isn’t just about protecting yourself; the lives of other workers are also at risk when unsafe practices go unnoticed in the workplace. This is an important step that leads to an improved work environment for every employee to thrive and feel safe.

Employees might be unwilling to take action due to the fear of being terminated. This is where the WSH Act comes in. It protects employees from retaliation, discrimination, or punishment by their employers.

Conditions for refusal

  • Reasonable belief of danger: Employees have the right to refuse work if they genuinely believe that performing the task or being in the work environment poses a threat to their health or safety. This belief must be reasonable, meaning there should be evidence or circumstances that support the concern. For example, if there is a clear risk of injury due to malfunctioning equipment or hazardous conditions, the belief would likely be considered reasonable.
  • Reporting the refusal: Once an employee decides to refuse unsafe work, the next step would be to report this refusal to their employer or immediate supervisor. This reporting ensures that the employer is aware of the situation and can take appropriate action to address the concern. Reporting procedures may vary depending on company policies or relevant regulations, but they often involve documenting the refusal and the reasons behind it. This documentation is crucial for maintaining transparency and accountability in the workplace. 

Employer’s obligation

  • Investigation: The employer’s response to this right is to make sure the work environment is safe and healthy. One way to do this would be to investigate as soon as they receive the report. In the process of investigation, they should address any risk or hazard that may arise to respect the worker’s decision to refuse work and not to retaliate or discriminate against the worker for exercising their right. 
  • Addressing the risk: This involves implementing corrective action, which is taking steps to resolve the identified hazard. It could involve implementing new safety measures, providing additional training, or making necessary repairs to equipment or facilities. 
  • No reprisals: No employee should be threatened with discipline; instead, the employer must provide them with alternative work that is safe and suitable or pay them regular wages until the incident is resolved. 

General process

The general process involves employees raising concerns when they observe any dangerous, unethical, or illegal acts in the workplace. The employee has the right to refuse unsafe work and report their findings to their employers or supervisors. 

From there, employers can assess the situation, identify the root cause, and determine the next corrective steps. After the resolution of the hazard, employers should reassess the workplace to ensure that the safety concern has been effectively addressed. Follow-up communication with the workers is crucial to confirm that the corrective actions have been implemented successfully. 

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Workplace Safety and Health Act

What happens to employers who fail to adhere to the Workplace Safety and Health Act? 

The Workplace Safety and Health Act has made a provision of penalties that serve as a deterrent against non-compliance. 

This is to hold employers accountable for maintaining safe working conditions. By imposing consequences for violations, the act reinforces the obligation of employers to take proactive measures to prevent workplace accidents and injuries.

Types of penalties

Fines: Companies can face monetary fines for violating safety regulations. The amount of the fine depends on the severity of the offense.

Imprisonment: In severe cases of non-compliance, individuals responsible for safety breaches may face imprisonment.

Determining the penalty

Nature of offense: The severity of the violation and its potential impact on workplace safety.

History of offenses: Previous violations and whether the company has a history of non-compliance.

Degree of culpability: whether the violation was intentional or due to negligence.

Additional consequences

Stop-work orders: Authorities may issue orders to halt operations until safety concerns are addressed, therefore impacting productivity and revenue.

Damage to reputation: Non-compliance can tarnish a company’s reputation, leading to a loss of trust among stakeholders, customers, and the public.

Empowering Employees for a Safer Work Environment

Workplace Safety and Health Act

HR managers have their hands full, and the ever changing Workplace Safety and Health Act adds yet another layer of responsibility to their already existing workload. 

Omni’s all-in-one HR solution helps make these tasks streamlined and free of manual error to reduce the administrative burden on HR. Organizations can track and monitor its compliance with Singapore’s safety regulations as well as analyze data to identify and address safety risks.

With Omni’s secure and centralized records, HR teams are empowered to make better decisions, proactive risk management, and continuous improvement in workplace safety practices.

Start your 14-day free trial and learn how Omni can help you remain compliant with regulations like the Workplace Safety and Health Act and reduce your administrative workload for all of your People management needs.

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