What is the employer’s golden rule in the prevention of workplace injuries?

Last updated on December 12, 2023

In cases of negligence where personal injury was suffered by an employee as a result of the negligent act of the employer, Singapore Courts have developed one distinct duty of care – known as the ‘golden rule’.

The employer’s ‘golden rule’, formulated by the Singapore Court of Appeal in the case of Chandran a/l Subbiah v Dockers Marine Pte Ltd, stipulates that employers ought to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. This is a standard based on the reasonable man’s test and is a non-delegable duty. A non-delegable duty in law does not mean that the duty cannot to delegated to another person. Instead, it means that if the employer has entrusted such a non-delegable duty to the agent, and the employee suffers damage as a result of the negligence of the agent, the employer is nevertheless liable for the breach.

The scope of this duty of care is to provide a safe system of work, described as follows:

  1. “Courts have generally been reluctant to hold an employee to be at fault if his actions were taken in the heat of the moment following an emergency created by the employer’s carelessness.
  2. Courts would also be slow to scrutinise to the minute detail the conduct of a conscientious employee as the primary responsibility for ensuring safety rests with the employer.
  3. Additionally, the fact that the plaintiff had to take a risk does not amount to contributory negligence on his part if the risk was created by the negligence of the defendant and was one which a reasonably prudent man in the plaintiff’s position would take. Broadly, it would seem that employees have more often than not been judged by less exacting standards than employers….
  4. Finally, it is also clear that mere errors of judgment do not ordinarily count against a plaintiff, for a person’s conduct in the face of sudden emergency cannot be judged from the standpoint of what would have been reasonable in the light of hindsight. To this end, courts often draw a distinction between mere heedlessness or errors of judgment on the one hand, and culpable neglect on the other.”

Essentially, the safe system of work should entail the employer’s provision of adequate equipment, adequately skilled workers, a safe system of work and a safe place of work. The safe system of work expected by the law should reduce as far as possible the effects of an employee’s own carelessness.

Accordingly, under section 12 of the Workplace Safety and Health Act, it is duty of employers to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of employees. This includes ensuring that employees are not exposed to hazards, ensuring employees have adequate training/supervision, etc.

Aggrieved employees may wish to refer to our other articles on suing for negligence and claiming for personal injury.

Hiring Employees
  1. How to Hire Remote Employees for Your Singapore Company
  2. Letter of Consent in Singapore: Eligibility and How to Apply
  3. Employment for the Disabled in Singapore: Laws and Schemes
  4. Overview of Employment Law in Singapore
  5. How to Hire Employees in Singapore: Step-by-Step Guide
  6. What is the Minimum Legal Age for Working in Singapore?
  7. How to Hire Foreign Workers in Singapore
  8. Work From Home Policy: Things to Consider & How to Write One
  9. Preparing an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) in Singapore
  10. Guide to Re-Employment and Retirement in Singapore
Employer Obligations
  1. Guide to Maternity Leave for Expecting Mothers in Singapore
  2. Ex Gratia Payments: What are They & When do Employers Pay Them?
  3. What is the Difference Between Wages, Salaries and Remuneration?
  4. Sick Leave Entitlements for Employees in Singapore
  5. A Guide to Company Leave Entitlements in Singapore
  6. CPF-Payable Contributions in Singapore: A Guide for Employers
  7. Progressive Wage Model: Minimum Wage Laws in Singapore
  8. Work-Life Balance Laws and Policies in Singapore: A Guide
  9. Mental Health Policies for Singapore Workplaces (Tripartite Advisory)
  10. An Employer’s Guide to Reimbursement of Expenses and Claims
  11. Code of Practice for Workplace Safety & Health: What Employers Should Know
  12. How to Issue Payslips to Your Employees in Singapore
  13. Can Muslims Legally Wear the Tudung at Work in Singapore?
  14. The Expecting Father's Guide to Paternity Leave in Singapore
  15. Who is Covered Under the Singapore Employment Act?
  16. Employment Rights of Interns and Trainees in Singapore
  17. Employee Salary: Calculations, Deductions, Unpaid Salary & More
  18. CPF Contribution of Employees and Employers, Rates & More
  19. Can Your Boss Ask You to Work on a Public Holiday in Singapore?
  20. How to Write a Fair and Accurate Employee Reference Letter
  21. What is the employer's golden rule in the prevention of workplace injuries?
  22. Every Parent’s Guide to Childcare Leave in Singapore
  23. Death of an Employee in Singapore: What Should Employers Do?
Employment Contracts
  1. Are Codes of Conduct Legally Binding in Singapore?
  2. Morality Clauses in Contracts: What is Considered a Breach?
  3. Employment Bond: What is It & Can It be Enforced in Singapore?
  4. Contracts OF Service vs Contracts FOR Service in Singapore: What’s the Difference?
  5. Is Your Non-Compete Clause Enforceable in Singapore?
  6. What are Non-Solicitation Clauses? Are They Enforceable in Singapore?
  7. Must You Pay Liquidated Damages to Terminate Your Contract?
Letting Go Of Employees
  1. Retrenchment in Singapore: Employer Obligations
  2. What to Know About Resigning from Your Singapore Job
  3. When Should Singapore Employers Use a Deed of Release?
  4. Blacklisting an Employee in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  5. What Happens at the Termination of Employment in Singapore?
  6. Retrenched in Singapore? Know Your Employee Rights
Employment Disputes
  1. Handling Employee Misconduct at the Workplace in Singapore
  2. Working Remotely in Singapore for an Overseas Company: Legal Issues to Note
  3. Victim of Workplace Abuse in Singapore: What to Do
  4. 6 Common Employment Disputes & What You Can Do
  5. Help! My Job Offer Got Rescinded, What Can I Do?
  6. Can My Employer Cut My Pay if I Choose to Work From Home?
  7. Where to Get Help for an Employment Dispute in Singapore
  8. Guide to Choosing a Good Employment Lawyer in Singapore
  9. Unfair Dismissal From Your Singapore Job: What to Do
  10. All You Need to Know About the Employment Claims Tribunals
  11. How to Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease in Singapore
  12. Discriminatory Hiring: Penalties Against Employers in Singapore