Knowledge Highlights 21 May 2020
The Tripartite Partners, which comprise the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”), the National Trades Union Congress (“NTUC”) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (“SNEF”), have issued an advisory on the “Requirements for safe management measures at the workplace after circuit breaker period” (“Advisory”). With the Government intending to relax restrictions and selectively resume economic activities in light of the decrease in community transmission of Covid-19, the Advisory, which was first issued on 9 May 2020 and last updated on 19 May 2020, provides details on the safe management measures that employers allowed to resume operations have to adopt to prevent the re-emergence of community cases of Covid-19.
The requirements set out in the Advisory apply to general workplace settings. The guidelines on specific workplace settings, such as companies in the manufacturing sector, employers that have customer-facing operations, and employers and vehicle owners that provide transportation and ferry employees to their workplaces, are set out in Annex A to the Advisory.
Employers must ensure that the safe management measures are in place, communicated and explained to employees prior to resuming work. Annex C to the Advisory provides a checklist of safe management measures that should be in place for the resumption of business activities. Signs should also be put up to remind employees and visitors to observe all measures in place. Unionised companies should engage their unions on such arrangements.
This Alert provides an overview of the safe management measures set out in the Advisory.
1. Implement system of safe management measures at workplaces
Employers must establish a system to implement the following safe management measures to provide a safe working environment and minimise risks of further outbreaks:
- Monitoring plan: Implement a detailed monitoring plan to ensure compliance with safe management measures and ensure that issues (e.g. remedy of non-compliance and risk mitigation) are resolved in a timely manner.
- Safe Management Officers: Appoint Safe Management Officers (“SMOs”) to assist in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the system of safe management measures at the workplace. SMOs should keep records of inspections and checks conducted and the corrective actions taken. The records shall be made available upon request by a Government inspector.
These measures must be implemented in a sustainable manner for as long as necessary.
2. Reduce physical interaction and ensure safe distancing at workplaces
Telecommuting from home
Employers must ensure that employees who can perform their work by telecommuting from home do so. Employers are encouraged to leverage technology to ensure business continuity and safe management. Annex B to the Advisory provides a list of resources such as technology solutions and grants available to assist companies.
Physical meetings must be minimised (e.g. by using tele-conferencing facilities), and all events or activities that involve close and prolonged contact amongst participants (e.g. conferences, seminars and exhibitions) must be cancelled or deferred.
Special attention should be paid to vulnerable employees (e.g. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions) to enable them to work from home, including temporary redeployment to other roles within the company that are suitable for working from home.
Avoiding socialising with colleagues
Employers must cancel or defer all social gatherings at the workplace (e.g. birthday celebrations and team bonding activities) and ensure that employees do not socialise or congregate in groups at the workplace, including during meals or breaks. Employers should not organise social gatherings outside the workplace and should remind employees not to socialise outside the workplace, both during and outside working hours, including with colleagues from separate teams/shifts/worksites.
Jobs or functions where employees cannot work from home
For job roles or functions where employees cannot work from home, such as frontline operations, manufacturing production, and fieldwork at construction sites, shipyards or plants, the Advisory sets out the precautions employers must put in place before resuming operations. These include:
- staggered working hours, to be implemented over at least three one-hourly blocks, with not more than half of the employees reporting to work within each block;
- staggered timings for lunch and other breaks;
- shift or split team arrangements; and
- reducing the occurrences of or need for common physical touchpoints in the workplace where possible.
Where physical interaction is required in the workplace, the Advisory provides that precautions should be taken to ensure clear physical spacing of at least one metre between persons at all times. Measures include:
- demarcating safe physical distances (at least one metre apart) at the workplace premises with visual indicators or through physical means (e.g. high barriers between workstations, relocation of workstations, meeting room seats);
- using appropriate technology (e.g. CCTVs and video analytics) to monitor and enforce safe distancing;
- requiring suppliers or contractors to implement similar safe distancing measures; and
- where applicable, adopting the queue management measures recommended by Enterprise Singapore to reduce physical interactions.
3. Support contact tracing requirements
To help the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) quickly identify potential close contacts of Covid-19 patients and reduce disease transmission, employers should encourage all employees to download and activate the TraceTogether app.
Employers must limit access to the workplace to only essential employees and authorised visitors. The SafeEntry visitor management system must be used to record the entry of all personnel (including employees and visitors) entering the workplace. The list of workplaces where SafeEntry must be deployed is set out in www.safeentry.gov.sg/deployment.
Personnel who are unwell must be refused entry to the workplace.
4. Require personal protective equipment and observe good personal hygiene
Employers must ensure that all onsite personnel, including employees, visitors, suppliers and contractors, wear a mask and other necessary personal protective equipment at all times at the workplace, except during activities that require masks to be removed.
Employers must ensure that they have sufficient masks for all employees, including any need to replace masks due to workplace conditions (e.g. humidity). Where possible, employers should consider improving the working environment for employees to enable them to sustain wearing the masks.
Employers should encourage their employees to observe good personal hygiene, e.g. wash their hands regularly and refrain from touching their face.
5. Ensure cleanliness of workplace premises
Cleaning of workplace premises
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 must be adhered to.
Provision of cleaning and disinfecting agents
Cleaning agents (e.g. hand soap, toilet paper) must be available at all toilets and hand-wash stations. Disinfecting agents (e.g. hand sanitisers) must be installed at all human traffic stoppage points within the workplace, such as entrances, reception areas, security booths and lift lobbies.
6. Implement health checks and protocols to manage potential cases
To manage potential cases of Covid-19, employers should implement the following health checks and protocols:
- Regular checks for temperature and respiratory symptoms for all employees and visitors.
- Adherence to MOH’s prevailing travel advisory.
- Deterring clinic-hopping and implementing preventive actions to guard against incipient outbreaks.
- An evacuation plan for suspected cases.
- A follow-up plan in the event of a confirmed case.
7. Action against errant employers
The Advisory states that if these safe management measures are not well implemented, tighter measures that affect Singapore’s economy and livelihoods would have to be reintroduced. MOM, MOH and sector agencies will take action against errant employers, including the cessation of operations and enforcement.
The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg:
- MOM Advisory: Requirements for safe management measures at the workplace after circuit breaker period
- Annex A: Safe management measures for various workplace settings
- Annex B: Resources to assist companies
- Annex C: Checklist of safe management measures at the workplace for resumption of business activities
In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary Covid-19 Legal Task Force consisting of Partners across various practice areas to provide rapid assistance. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.