The scope of the Workmen’s Injury Compensation Act  includes death and injury sustained while travelling in employer-provided vehicles, but not in public-transport vehicles.

Section 3, subsection 2 of the Act expressly says:

3 (2)  An accident happening to an employee while he is, with the express or implied permission of his employer, travelling as a passenger by any means of transport to or from his place of work shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of his employment if at the time of the accident the means of transport is being operated by or on behalf of his employer or by some other person by whom it is operated in pursuance of arrangements made with his employer and is not being operated in the ordinary course of a public transport service.

Failure of the employer to purchase insurance policies does not relieve the employer of liability. The language of Section 3, subsection 1 of the Act is very plain in this regard:

3 (1)  If in any employment personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to an employee, his employer shall be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

This matter came up in a parliamentary question asked by Dr Lim Wee Kiak on 19 July 2010 during a debate about the transport of workers in lorries. Then-Transport Minister Mr Raymond Lim said in reply that compensation for injuries sustained would be covered by the Act:

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang): I thank the Minister for his reply to my Question. I would like to ask the Minister with regard to the insurance for these workers especially when they are injured or when lives are lost: what kind of coverage do they have now? Will the Minister be looking into increasing the insurance coverage of these workers who are transported on lorries?

My second question is whether the Minister will consider putting a ban to prevent these lorries from using expressways because expressways have stipulated speed limits. Even if you lower the speed, these lorries are going at faster and faster speeds with time.

Mr Raymond Lim Siang Keat: I will take the second question first. We already have a speed limit. Actually, the speed limit is now 60 kilometres per hour. I think that helps to reduce injuries to workers when there is a collision. The Member’s other point is on insurance coverage. We now have a Workmen’s Compensation Act, and I think that should be covered under the Act.

(See fuller report in Lorry safety measures deadline brought forward)

While the law may provide for compensation under the scheme, getting the awarded payment may prove difficult in practice. A migrant worker’s right to remain in Singapore is typically terminated once the compensation amount has been decided – at the Ministry of Manpower, the process is considered to have come to an end at that point – regardless of whether the worker has received actual payment or not. He is expected to hire a lawyer (whom he may not be able to afford) to pursue his claim in his absence.