Posted on 30/03/2021 by Paula Formantes
- The tripartite partners (MOM, SNEF, and NTUC) have updated the workplace safe management measures to allow greater flexibility for businesses, while mitigating the risk of widespread COVID-19 transmission. Effective implementation of these measures will help to avoid having to impose tighter measures.
- These requirements will be effective from 5 April 2021 and are meant for general workplace settings. Specific workplaces like construction worksites and shipyards may have to fulfil additional requirements and should refer to sector-specific requirements.
- Agencies including MOM, Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will continue to enforce safe management measures and act against errant employers. This may include issuing stop-work orders and financial penalties.
Safe Management Measures
- To ensure COVID-safe workplaces, employers should take care of:
- Your workers;
- Your workplaces; and
- Those who may become unwell at your workplaces.
A. Take care of your workers
- Provide employees options to work from home.
- From 5 April 2021, more employees may return to the workplace to better support in-person collaboration and business operations. Nonetheless, employers are encouraged to support as many employees in working from home as possible.
- The risk of transmission remains. Employers must ensure that no more than 75% of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time.
- For example, a company with 100 employees who can work from home can have up to 75 of these employees at the workplace at any point in time.
- There is no limit on the proportion of an individual employee’s working time that can be spent at the workplace.
- Employers are encouraged to support as many employees in working from home as possible. This will help to limit the number of employees exposed at the workplace at any point in time, and reduce crowding in common areas, e.g. pantries, toilets, lifts. Having more employees work from home will also help sustain business operations should a case emerge at the workplace.
- Work-from-home measures should enable employees to maintain work-life harmony while continuing to meet business needs. The Tripartite Advisory on mental well-being at workplaces sets out practical guidance on measures that employers can adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being under a variety of work arrangements.
- For employees who are still unable to work from home, employers should review work processes, provide the necessary IT equipment to employees, and adopt solutions that enable remote working and online collaboration. Employers are encouraged to leverage technology to ensure business continuity and safe management.
- Companies should continue to conduct virtual meetings as far as possible.
- Companies should pay special attention to vulnerable employees (e.g. persons who are aged 60 and above, and patients who are immunocompromised or have concurrent medical conditions). Employers are encouraged to enable these employees to work-from-home, allow them to travel to/from work at off-peak timings, temporarily redeploy them to another role within the company, or take other appropriate measures to reduce their exposure to infection risk.
- For employees at the workplace, employers must ensure the following precautions are in place:
- Stagger start times and allow flexible workplace hours: This will spread out staff across time and place and reduces possible congregation of employees at common spaces at or near the workplace, such as entrances, exits, lobbies, canteens, pantries. It also reduces the congestion of people in public places, including public transport.
- With more employees back in the office, employers are encouraged to stagger the start times for all employees such that at least half of all employees arrive at the workplace at or after 10 am, as far as possible. If physical meetings are needed, they can be scheduled after 10 am. These measures would enable more employees to avoid peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport. Timings of lunch and other breaks should also be staggered accordingly.
- For employees who can work-from-home but who return to the workplace, employers should also allow for flexible workplace hours. This is not to shorten work hours, but to allow flexibility to reduce the duration spent in the workplace, while also working from home during the day.
- To illustrate (i) and (ii), employers could allow a proportion of their employees to work in the workplace from 10 am-4 pm while fulfilling their remaining work hours from home. Employers could also allow their employees to work from home in the morning, and only return to the workplace in the afternoon (e.g. from 1-5 pm); or return to the workplace only for meetings and work from home the rest of the day.
- If it is not feasible to implement staggered start times, flexible workplace hours, and staggered break hours due to operational reasons (e.g. manufacturing production line activities), employers must implement other systemic arrangements to reduce the congregation of employees at common spaces.
- No cross-deployment across worksites: No employee should work at more than one worksite. If cross-deployment cannot be avoided (e.g. due to the nature of the job), additional safeguards must be taken to minimize the risk of cross-infection.
- All work-related events that proceed must adhere to prevailing workplace Safe Management Measures and are subject to the following requirements.
- The number of persons per event must be capped at 50 persons to limit the risk of exposure to infection.
- Attendees must maintain at least 1 metre safe distancing between individual attendees, as per the requirement at the workplace.
- Meals should not be the main feature of the event. Employers should also avoid holding events over mealtimes as far as possible. Food or drinks should only be served if incidental to the workplace event (e.g. the meeting or conference extends over lunchtime). In addition, the food must be served individually with the participants seated while consuming. Participants should minimize the time that they are unmasked while eating.
Work-related events at third-party venues will also be subject to any additional premise owners’ safety management policies.
- Limit social gatherings to 8 persons
- All social and recreational gatherings (e.g. farewell lunch, team bonding activity) within or outside the workplace must adhere to the prevailing gathering size limit of 8 persons.
- The total gathering size must not exceed 8 persons. Gatherings involving more than a single group of 8 are not allowed.
- Wear masks at the workplace: Employers must ensure that all onsite personnel, including employees, visitors, suppliers, and contractors, always wear a mask and other necessary personal protective equipment at the workplace, except during activities that require masks to be removed. Masks will have to be worn immediately after the activity is completed.
- Employers should ensure that they have sufficient masks for all employees, including any need to replace masks more frequently due to workplace conditions.
- Where possible, employers should consider improving the working environment for employees to enable them to sustain wearing the masks.
- Observe good personal hygiene: Employers should encourage their employees to observe good personal hygiene, e.g. wash their hands regularly and refrain from touching their face.
B. Take care of the workplace
- Control access at the workplace to only essential employees and authorized visitors. Employers must use the SafeEntry visitor management system to record the entry of all personnel (including employees and visitors) entering the workplace. All employees and visitors should check-in and check-out of workplaces using SafeEntry to help MOH in establishing potential transmission chains.
- Personnel who are unwell (including having a fever upon temperature screening) must be refused entry to the workplace.
- Visitors who are unwell should be asked to reschedule their appointments to another day when they are well or be served via alternate means.
- Employers must ensure that employees and visitors must declare via SafeEntry or other means (e.g. electronic or hard copy records), before being allowed to enter premises, that they:
- Are currently not under a Quarantine Order, Stay-Home Notice;
- Have not had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days; and
- Do not have any fever or flu-like symptoms.
- Adhere to travel advisories: Employers should ensure that their employees adhere to MOH’s prevailing travel advisory.
- Where physical interaction cannot be avoided, precautions should be taken to ensure clear physical spacing of at least 1 metre through physical means and demarcation of safe physical distances (at least 1m apart) using visual indicators, where possible, in the following situations:
- Between all persons at meeting rooms, work areas, and workstations; and
- At all times during work-related events held at the workplace.
- Employers who are service buyers should also require their suppliers/contractors to implement similar safe distancing measures so that operations and business interactions with these suppliers/contractors are kept safe. Where physical interactions are still necessary, e.g. delivery of goods, employers must adopt precautionary measures such as scheduling delivery times by different suppliers in a staggered manner. The duration of such transactions should be kept as short as possible.
- Minimize the need for physical touchpoints: Employers should reduce the occurrences of, or need for common physical touchpoints in the workplace where possible (e.g. by deploying contactless access controls). Where physical contact is needed, additional safeguards must be taken to minimize the risk of cross-infection (e.g. frequent disinfection of touchpoints).
- Step up cleaning of workplace premises through the following:
- Employers must ensure regular cleaning of common spaces, particularly areas with high human contact. Where physical meetings are held or meals are taken at common spaces such as pantries or canteens, employers must clean and disinfect tables between each meeting or seating.
- Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment shared between different employees across different shifts or alternate teams are cleaned and disinfected before changing hands. The sanitation and hygiene advisories disseminated by the National Environmental Agency (NEA) must be adhered to.
- Provide cleaning and disinfecting agents at the following areas:
- Cleaning agents (e.g. liquid soap, toilet paper) must be available at all toilets and hand-wash stations.
- Disinfecting agents (e.g. hand sanitizers) must be installed at all human traffic stoppage points within the workplace, such as entrances, reception areas, security booths and lift lobbies.
- Disinfecting agents (e.g. disinfectant sprays, paper towels, and wipes) must be provided at meeting rooms and other common spaces such as pantries or canteens.
C. Take care of workers who become unwell at the workplace.
- Ensure regular checks for temperature and respiratory symptoms for all onsite employees and visitors, twice daily or where relevant. Employers must be able to demonstrate that these checks are in place during inspections.
- Record proximity data on phones: To help MOH to identify potential close contacts of COVID-19 patients and reduce disease transmission, employers should encourage all employees to download and activate the TraceTogether app.
- Actively monitor unwell employees and guard against incipient outbreaks:
- Employees at the workplace who have visited a clinic must submit to their employers records of their MCs and diagnoses provided (only for COVID-19-related symptoms, including acute respiratory infections), and if they were tested for COVID-19 and the results of their tests.
- Employers must take preventive action to guard against incipient outbreaks at the workplace, such as advising employees who are unwell to stay home and consult a doctor rather than going to the workplace, requiring these employees on MCs to closely monitor their health before returning to the workplace and requiring these employees’ close contacts at the workplace to monitor their health more regularly.
- Where possible, employers should ensure that each employee visits only one clinic for check-ups if unwell. Otherwise, employees should inform the clinic of all recent doctor visits over the past 14 days for any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19.
- Manage unwell cases: An evacuation plan must be prepared for unwell or suspected cases, as well as for other onsite personnel.
- Any employee who is feeling unwell or showing symptoms of illness should report to his employer, leave the workplace, and consult a doctor immediately, even if symptoms may appear mild. Employers must track and record these cases as part of Safe Management Measures.
- For incapacitated or unconscious individuals, employers must clear the area of other personnel and administer aid immediately. Employers should call 995 for an emergency ambulance to ferry them to the nearest hospital.
- Manage confirmed cases: A follow-up plan must be put in place in the event of a confirmed case. Upon being notified of a confirmed case, employers must adopt the following precautionary measures:
- Immediately vacate and cordon-off the immediate section of the workplace premises where the confirmed case worked. There is no need to vacate the building or the whole floor if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case; and
- Carry out a thorough cleaning and disinfecting all relevant on-site areas and assets that were exposed to confirmed cases, in accordance with NEA guidelines.
For worksites with confirmed cases, businesses could be suspended if there are public health grounds.
D. Implement a system of Safe Management Measures
- Employers must establish a system to implement the above Safe Management Measures to provide a safe working environment and minimize risks of COVID-19 outbreaks. These measures must be implemented in a sustainable manner for as long as necessary.
- Implement a detailed monitoring plan to ensure compliance with Safe Management Measures and timely resolution of outstanding issues.
- Appoint Safe Management Officer(s) (“SMO”) to assist in the implementation, coordination, and monitoring of the system of Safe Management Measures at the workplace. For unionized companies, union leaders or WSH officers could be appointed as SMOs. Employers must provide appointed SMOs with adequate instruction, information, and supervision as is necessary for them to fulfill their required duties. SMOs are strongly encouraged to receive training. The duties of the Officer(s) include:
- To coordinate the implementation of Safe Management Measures, including identifying relevant risks, recommending, and assisting in implementing measures to mitigate the risks, and communicating the measures to all personnel working in the workplace.
- To conduct inspections and checks, to always ensure compliance. Any non-compliance found during the inspections should be reported and documented;
- To remedy non-compliance found during the inspections and checks through immediate action; and
- To keep records of inspections, checks, and corrective actions, to be made available upon request by a Government Inspector.
- Employers must ensure that the measures above are in place, communicated, and explained to employees prior to resuming work onsite (refer to Annex B for a checklist of Safe Management Measures that should be in place for resumption of business activities). Signs should also be put up to remind employees and visitors to observe all measures in place. Unionized companies should engage their unions on such arrangements.
- Employees should also do their part in adhering to the measures to create a safe working environment. Those who wish to report breaches or poor practices can do so via SnapSAFE, an app that allows the reporting of workplace safety and health issues to MOM.
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- Annex A: https://www.mom.gov.sg/-/media/mom/documents/covid-19/annex-a-resources-to-assist-companies.pdf
- Annex B: https://www.mom.gov.sg/-/media/mom/documents/covid-19/annex-b-checklist-of-safe-management-measures.pdf