COVID-19: MOM lays out requirements firms must meet to resume operations at workplaces

COVID-19: MOM lays out requirements firms must meet to resume operations at workplaces

A temperature screening station at One Raffles Place office towers
A temperature screening station at One Raffles Place office towers (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: As Singapore moves to gradually ease circuit breaker measures, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday (May 9) laid out requirements firms will need to meet to resume operations at workplaces. 

The requirements for general workplace settings fall under six categories. 

They include implementing a system of safe management measures at workplaces, reducing physical interaction and ensuring safe distancing at workplaces. 

Employers must also support contact tracing requirements, require personal protective equipment and personal hygiene, ensure cleanliness of workplace premises and implement health checks and protocols to manage potential cases.

READ: Singapore to start gradual easing of circuit breaker measures as COVID-19 community cases decline

“As local transmission numbers come down, we can gradually relax our restrictions and selectively resume economic activities. This will help support our businesses and protect livelihoods," MOM said in a media statement.

"To prevent the re-emergence of community cases, our workplaces should begin to put in place safe management measures ahead of time."

The requirements were jointly drawn by the tripartite partners- MOM, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

Some workplaces will be allowed to open from May 12.

READ: COVID-19 circuit breaker extended until Jun 1 as Singapore aims to bring down community cases ‘decisively’: PM Lee

Under a new system for safe management measures, safe management officers need to be appointed. They will assist in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the system of the measures at the workplace, MOM said.

Among their duties are identifying relevant risks, recommending and assisting in implementing measures to mitigate the risks, and communicating the measures to all personnel working in the workplace. Officers must also conduct inspections and checks to ensure compliance at all times.

“Any non-compliance found during the inspections should be reported and documented,” MOM said.

To reduce interaction and ensure safe distancing, all employees who are able to telecommute need to do so. 

READ: Singapore reports 753 new COVID-19 cases, taking country's total to 22,460

MOM also gave specific instructions on how the working arrangements should be detailed. Meetings have to be held virtually as far as possible, and if in person, the number of people has to be limited.

Among those who work on-site, working hours need to be staggered over at least three one-hourly blocks, and break hours need to be staggered, with not more than half of the employees reporting to work within each one-hour block.

“If working and break hours cannot be staggered due to operational reasons, other systems must be implemented to reduce congregation of employees at common spaces,” according to a checklist provided by the authority.

No cross-deployment or interaction is allowed between employees in different shifts, teams or worksites, and even outside work. Vulnerable employees, such as older workers should be enabled to work from home. This could mean redeploying them to another role within the company that is suitable for working from home.

READ: COVID-19: SafeEntry digital check-in system deployed to more than 16,000 venues

If physical interactions are needed in the workplace, precautions should be taken to ensure clear physical spacing of at least 1m between people.

"Employers must demarcate safe physical distances (at least 1m apart) at the workplace premises with visual indicators or through physical means," MOM explained. This would include common spaces like entrances, exits, lifts and pantries.

CONTACT TRACING, MANAGING POTENTIAL COVID-19 CASES

Firms should encourage all employees at the workplace to download and activate the TraceTogether app, the authority said. Workplace access should be limited to only essential employees and authorised visitors.

Workplaces should use SafeEntry visitor management system to log the entry of all personnel entering the workplace.

Everyone at the workplace, including visitors, will have to wear masks and “other necessary personal protective equipment at all times” except during meals, for example. Items to ensure employees can keep themselves clean, such as hand soap and toilet paper, and disinfecting agents such as hand sanitisers must be provided.

Particularly in areas with high human contact, employers must ensure regular cleaning. This would include common spaces like counters where customers are served, rooms where visitors are hosted, as well as and general public access areas such as lifts, pantries, toilets, and bin areas.

Regular temperature screening and check for respiratory symptoms for all onsite employees at least have to be conducted twice daily and declarations on travel history and stay-home notice have to be submitted where relevant.

The checklist also requires each workplace employee to visit only one clinic for check-ups.

“Otherwise, employees must inform the clinic of all recent doctor visits over past 14 days for any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19,” according to the checklist.

Employees also have to submit records of diagnoses for COVID-19 related symptom, and if they were tested for the disease, and what the results were.

They also have to put in place an evacuation plan for suspected cases, as well as for all other onsite personnel. 

There also needs to be a follow-up plan in the event of a confirmed case. The immediate section of the workplace premises where the person confirmed to have COVID-19 worked would need to be immediately vacated and cordoned-off.

“If these safe management measures are not well implemented, tighter measures that affect our economy and livelihoods would have to be reintroduced. MOM, the Ministry of Health and sector agencies will take action against errant employers, including the cessation of operations and enforcement,” MOM said.

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Source: CNA/ja

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