The recent revision to the 2022 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Law has taken many businesses by surprise and there remains a significant level of uncertainty regarding its implications. The revision significantly impacts numerous industries, which have been reclassified into three risk-based levels. This predominantly affects companies within the specified industries that employ more than 50 workers across one or multiple sites of operation. Non-compliance with the law may result in substantial penalties. In this article, we aim to provide a concise overview of the new requirements and offer practical solutions to ensure compliance with the updated OSH Law.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer nor is this article to be considered legal advice in any way. Neither is it to be considered as OHS consulting advice. This article is based on my personal research of the Thai OSH Act as translated by Google Translate and public other sources.
Key Takeaways from Occupational Health & Safety Law updates
- 64 industries are affected. These are classified into three risk-based levels.
- Hotels have now been classed into a higher risk category (Level 2).
- Law applies to companies employing 50 or more individuals within the specified industries.
- A companies Safety Management System (SMS) must adhere to an international standard.
- There is an added security component within the new regulation.
- Penalties for Non-compliance with the law will apply. This include the possibility of a fine for 400,000 Baht and/or imprisonment for a period of up to 6 months.
New Classification of Levels of Industry
Under the previous Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act 2006 and 2011, the Ministry of Labour and Welfare classified industries into 14 distinct categories. The revised legislation has reclassified these categories into three risk-based levels, based on the potential for serious incidents.
In each of these listed industries, a more robust safety management system must be implemented for companies with over 50 workers.
Safety Management Systems Required
The previous legislation pertaining to safety management systems did impose certain mandates, however, the updated legislation presents a more comprehensive approach. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act 2011 has been amended to include additional specifications in Clauses 5 (paragraph 1) and 8. Previously, Clause 8 merely indicated that employers were obligated to maintain occupational safety, health, and environmental standards as specified by the Ministerial Regulation, however, it lacked any concrete directives regarding the implementation of these standards. The newly revised legislation has clarified this aspect.
The law mandates that a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS) must be established and implemented, which must include the following elements at a minimum:
- A written policy that outlines the principles of safety, occupational health, and environmental protection (referenced in ISO 45001 Clause 5.2), which must be made accessible to all employees and relevant stakeholders.
- The implementation of an organizational management system that encompasses all aspects of safety, occupational health, and environmental protection (referenced in ISO 45001 Clauses 4 and 5, among others).
- The formulation of a work plan for safety, occupational health, and environmental protection, and its implementation (this is also in accordance with the provisions outlined in ISO 45001 Clause 6 – Planning).
- Regular evaluations and reviews of the SMS to ensure its efficacy (also specified in ISO 45001 Clause 9 -Performance Evaluation).
- A continuous improvement process to enhance the SMS, also outlined in ISO 45001 Clause 10 (Improvement).
The law outlines the specific responsibilities of employers in establishing their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Policy. These include:
- Employers must ensure that all employees and relevant stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in the development of the OHS Policy and that it is widely disseminated throughout the organization. This requirement is also reflected in ISO 45001 Clause 7 (Support).
- The OHS Policy may be written in Thai or any other language that employees and stakeholders are able to comprehend, and it must be dated, signed, and stamped. An electronic format, such as a PDF, is also acceptable.
- Employers are mandated to conduct a formal review of the OHS Policy at least annually
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Policy must align with the hazards inherent in the workplace environment, as prescribed in ISO 45001 Clause 5.2. The policy must be crafted to meet the following objectives:
- To secure the safety, occupational health, and environmental well-being of employees in the workplace.
- To ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations governing occupational safety, health, and environmental protection.
The Safety Management System (SMS) must encompass the following components:
- Assignment of personnel with specific duties and responsibilities related to the implementation of the SMS, suitable for each respective position.
- Personnel involved in the implementation of the SMS must receive adequate training to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their duties safely. This typically involves training as Safety Officers, in accordance with the government curriculum (also a requirement of ISO 45001 Clauses 7.2 and 7.3).
- SMS documents, such as safety procedures and policies other than the OSH Policy, must be regularly updated and reviewed at least once every two years from the date of approval. These documents must be readily accessible to employees and other stakeholders and may also be made available electronically (e.g. in PDF format or through an intranet). The internal auditing, continual improvement, and management review requirements are outlined in ISO 45001 Clauses 13, 14, and 15.
- The SMS must be designed to effectively communicate information to employees, contractors, and other stakeholders working in the workplace. This requirement is covered by ISO 45001 Clauses 5.4 and 7.4 (Communication, Participation, and Consultation). For companies that work with contractors who may be exposed to risks at the worksite, it is recommended to have a comprehensive Contractor Safety Management program in place to fulfill the requirements of Clause 8.4 of the OSH law.
The Safety Management System must include a comprehensive hazard identification and risk mitigation plan.
- Employers must undertake risk assessments for a range of workplace hazards, including low ventilation, exposure to hazardous chemicals, heat, light and noise, electrocution, radiation, confined space, machine/equipment, and building space hazards, as well as other hazardous conditions that may affect employee health and safety. The risk assessments must be reviewed and updated whenever working conditions change, and the assessments must be documented and kept on record (also stipulated ISO45001 Clause 6 – Planning).
- A mitigation plan must be developed to eliminate or reduce hazards to the lowest level reasonably practicable. The plan must include a designated responsible party, a budget allocation, and a timeframe for action item closure and effectiveness review (also outlined in ISO45001 Clauses 10.1, 10.2, and 10.3.
- The mitigation plan must be implemented.
- The results of the mitigation plan implementation must be evaluated to determine its effectiveness. This evaluation is also described in ISO45001 Clause 6.2.
- The results of the evaluation must be used to improve the overall Occupational Health and Safety plan (alsospecified in ISO45001 Clause 10).
The new revision of the OSH Act outlines several additional requirements for the Safety Management System, which can be effectively met through the implementation of a system based on the ISO45001 standard. While obtaining ISO certification is not mandatory, implementing a system that aligns with ISO45001 can streamline the certification process if desired. Furthermore, having ISO accreditation demonstrates a commitment to employee, contractor, visitor, and community safety and can be a valuable asset in demonstrating this to clients and stakeholders, such as investors.
A New Security Component
The recent revisions to the OSH Act also emphasize the need for companies to establish procedures and policies for ensuring operational security. Although the specific requirements are not defined, it is advisable to undergo a security gap analysis to determine any shortcomings in physical and cyber security. This will help you identify any vulnerabilities and develop strategies to address them effectively.
Penalties for Being in Violation of the OSH Act
The OSH Act of 2006 and 2011 stipulates that businesses that fail to comply with the safety management system standards outlined in the Ministerial Regulation may face penalties. In the event of a violation, business owners may be subject to imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to Baht 400,000. This responsibility may also extend to directors, managers, or any other responsible parties within the organization. The Ministry of Labour employs Safety Inspectors who may conduct inspections of workplace safety management systems. These inspections may occur at their discretion, or as a result of a serious injury or fatality, or in response to a significant event such as a fire, explosion, or serious accident.
Solutions: A Safety Management System that will Comply with Thai Law
For businesses with more than 50 workers and listed within the new Levels 1-3 categories list, it’s crucial to familiarize themselves with the revised OSH Act and carry out a gap analysis to identify any shortcomings in their Safety Management Systems (SMS).
The law mandates full compliance within 60 days of the law’s promulgation, which ended in August 2022. Non-compliance poses a risk.
Once you identify the gaps, assemble a team of qualified safety professionals and other stakeholders to develop an SMS that aligns with the Thai OSH Act.
If you lack the necessary resources or time, there are alternative options available.
The second option is to obtain a pre-written set of procedures and policies that will bring you into compliance, at least in a document perspective.
The OSH Act mandates various standards to be followed, but the easiest and most comprehensive system is the ISO45001 system.
This set of procedures can be paper-based or stored on your network, with best practice being on a company intranet like Microsoft SharePoint, for easier communication, document management, and review.
The third option is to hire a consultant to assist with implementation.
The consultant should have extensive real-world experience in safety management systems and be competent to carry out a comprehensive gap analysis and provide an implementation strategy for your business and industry. It’s advisable to have a streamlined and straightforward OSH system and procedures, as sometimes, simplicity is key. The consultant should guide you towards a world-class safety management system that not only meets but exceeds compliance regulations.