Directors with on-going investigations remain legally exposed to legal liabilities even without the COP.
For the avoidance of doubt, the COP is not law. However, the COP can be taken into consideration by the court in its determination of liability, especially in criminal proceedings. It is trite law that the court will take into consideration applicable regulations and industry standards when deciding whether a person (including a company) had taken all such reasonably practicable measures to ensure safety. Similarly, the court will likely be persuaded that the COP is a recognised industry standard as it is published by the Workplace Safety and Health Council (as opposed to it being a publication by only the Ministry of Manpower).
The four principles and 17 measures in the COP correspond broadly to existing obligations under the WSHA. For example, measure 2 alludes to setting out a Safety and Health Management System under the WSH (Safety and Health Management System and Auditing) Regulations 2009; measure 5 alludes to providing and maintaining a work environment which is safe and adequate as regards arrangements for welfare at work (section 12(3)(a) WSHA). We reproduce a summary of the four principles and 17 measures from the COP in Annex A.
As a corollary, directors who face on-going investigations or prosecutions prior to the publication of the COP continue to be exposed to legal liabilities from WSH breaches committed by their companies.