The Singapore District Court recently heard a claim by a former employee seeking further compensation to that already provided by his employer following a workplace injury. While the claim was dismissed, the case is a timely reminder for employers of their obligations in relation to safety and health in the workplace.
The employee was a construction worker and suffered a minor eye injury when a nail he was hammering broke and a nail fragment flew into his eye. At the time, the employee was taken to hospital and subsequently went on medical leave for a number of days. The employer paid the employee’s medical bill (and for additional surgery for an eye condition that was unrelated to the workplace injury) and paid the employee while be recovered from this surgery.
The employee had claimed that he had suffered a "serious" eye injury through his employer’s negligence in not providing him with safety goggles. However, in the trial the employee admitted that the employer had provided safety goggles but he had chosen not to wear them.
The claim was dismissed and the presiding judge was critical of the employee’s claim, labelling it as “opportunistic”.
Although the employee's claim was dismissed, this case is a useful reminder of an employer’s obligations in relation to workplace injuries. The key obligation for employers is to protect the safety and health of employees and workers working under their direction. Employers will need to ensure that safety measures are in place, such as:
- Providing workers with adequate instruction, training and supervision to enable them to perform their work in a safe manner;
- Carrying out risk assessments to identify hazards and to implement effective measures to manage risk;
- Ensuring that appropriate safety measures are taken in relation to plant, machinery and other equipment and that safe procedures and processes are used at the workplace; and
- Putting in place risk management policies and emergency plans and systems.
Employer’s should also be aware of their obligations in relation to reporting workplace accidents and injuries, dangerous occurrences and occupational diseases, as failures to report within the prescribed time frames can result in substantial penalties.