Knowledge Highlights 30 March 2022

On 29 March 2022, the tripartite partners (Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”), Singapore National Employers Federation, and National Trades Union Congress) updated their advisory on workplace safe management measures to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission at general workplace settings (“advisory”). On 24 March 2022, the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) announced the easing of community safe management measures and border measures, and the advisory was further updated to reflect this.

Details of the updated workplace safe management measures, including the safe management measures that have been lifted, are set out below.

Scope and enforcement

The requirements set out in the advisory are intended for general workplace settings. Specific workplaces like shipyards may have to fulfil additional requirements and should refer to sector-specific requirements. Agencies including MOM, Building and Construction Authority (“BCA”), Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will continue to enforce safe management measures and take action against errant employers. This may include issuing stop-work orders and financial penalties.

Workers

Employers must implement workforce vaccination measures to keep their workforce safe and minimise strain on Singapore’s healthcare capacity. The following worker-related safe management measures apply:

  • Fully vaccinated or recovered employees allowed at workplace: Only employees who are fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 in the past 180 days, are allowed to enter the workplace. More details on work arrangements for unvaccinated employees are available from the updated MOM advisory on Covid-19 vaccination at the workplace. Employers may check their company’s vaccination rate using the Workforce Vaccination Checker (CorpPass login required). Those who are certified by MOH to be medically ineligible for Covid-19 vaccination may continue to enter the workplace.
  • Up to 75% of employees allowed at workplace: Up to 75% of employees who are able to work from home can be at the workplace at any point in time. Those who report to work onsite are encouraged to self-test when they feel unwell or had recent contact with an infected person.
  • Employers best placed to decide on work arrangements: As workplace requirements and business models vary, MOM states that employers are best placed to decide on work arrangements to ensure operational effectiveness and sustainability in the long run.
  • Safe-distancing and mask-wearing measures: Employers must ensure the following for employees (and contractors and vendors) who are physically onsite at the workplace:
  • Mask-wearing is required for indoor settings except during activities that require masks to be removed.
  • In mask-off settings (e.g. staff canteen), there must be one metre between each group of up to 10 persons. Safe distancing is not required in mask-on settings.

Social gatherings at the workplace will are permitted subject to the above requirements.

  • Work-related events: Employers can organise events, including social events such as corporate dinner-and-dance, subject to the following requirements:
    • SMM 1-5 must be adhered to. For example, at mask-off events, there must be 1 metre between each group of up to 10 persons. At mask-on events, if there are more than 1000 attendees, the venue must not be filled to more than 75% of its capacity limit.
    • The event must be compliant with Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS), i.e. all attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 in the past 180 days, or medically ineligible for vaccination.
    • Work-related events held at third-party venues will also be subject to any additional premises owners’ safe management policies.

Food and beverages must be served individually and consumed while seated.

MOM also encourages employers to do the following:

  • Support employees’ mental well-being during work (whether it is working from home or at the workplace). Employers can adopt the recommendations in the Tripartite Advisory on mental well-being at workplaces.
  • Implement flexible work arrangements. Employers should continue to reap the benefits of hybrid work, which involves a mix of work done on-site and remotely, as well as other work flexibilities such as staggered start times and flexible workplace hours. MOM states that these have the potential to boost business productivity and employees’ well-being.

Workplace

In taking care of the workplace, employers should:

  • Use TraceTogether-only SafeEntry or take other reasonably practicable measures, to record the entry of all personnel (including employees and visitors) entering the workplace.
  • Clean common spaces and touchpoints regularly in accordance with the National Environment Agency’s (“NEA”) guidelines for in-house cleaning and disinfection of areas exposed to Covid-19 cases in non-healthcare premises.
  • Increase ventilation where possible, in accordance with advisories by NEA or BCA. Employers may also refer to Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council’s video on improving workplace ventilation. Employers can increase the mechanical airflow, open windows, or doors to facilitate higher exchange of air. Employers are also encouraged to measure their carbon dioxide CO2 levels within the premises to keep within NEA’s guidelines of 800 parts per million (ppm).

What to do when workers are infected

Workers should inform their employers if they are unwell, have tested positive for Covid-19, or identified by MOH as a close contact of an infected person. Workers should follow MOH’s Health Protocols on isolation periods.

Upon notification that workers had been infected, employers are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce risk of workplace transmission:

  • Establish if colleagues had interacted with the infected worker recently
    (e.g. through having meals together).
  • Conduct ART on colleagues who had interacted with the infected worker and follow Health Protocols. There is no need to send workers home if they are tested negative.
  • Clean the area where the infected worker was working in accordance with NEA’s advisory. Deep cleaning of the premises is not required.
  • Review the implementation of safe management measures.

Employers should also refer to the MOM advisory on work and leave arrangements for employees who test positive for Covid-19 but are mildly symptomatic or physically well.

Implement sustainable system of safe management measures

Employers must establish a system to implement the safe management measures in a sustainable manner to provide a safe working environment, including (a) a detailed monitoring plan to ensure compliance with SMMs and timely resolution of outstanding issues, (b) to communicate and explain measures to employees so as to reduce misunderstanding especially in measures related to working from home, (c) to put up signs reminding employees and visitors to observe all measures in place, and (d) unionised companies should engage their unions on such arrangements. A checklist of safe management measures is available from Annex B to the advisory.

Employers should appoint Safe Management Officer(s) (“SMO”) to assist in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the system at the workplace.
The SMO role includes the following:

  • Coordinate 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;
  • Conduct inspections and checks to ensure compliance. Any non-compliance found during the inspections should be reported and documented;
  • Assist the employer to rectify the non-compliance found during the inspections and checks through immediate action; and
  • Keep records of inspections, checks and correction actions, to be made available upon request by a Government inspector.

Past requirements that have been lifted

MOM informs that, as Singapore move towards endemicity, some safe management measures requirements have been progressively lifted. To facilitate implementation of the prevailing safe management measures requirements, the following past requirements for employers no longer apply:

  • Demarcation of safe distancing (e.g. in meeting rooms)
  • Restriction on cross-deployment across workplaces
  • Staggering of start times and break times
  • Temperature-taking at the workplace
  • Limiting workplace access to essential employees and authorised visitors
  • Evacuation plan for suspected Covid-19 cases
  • Deep cleaning for positive Covid-19 cases at the workplace
  • Requirements for work-related events with more than 50 attendees to implement zoning, to be static, and to notify the authorities before hand

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg:

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