29 June 2021
On 10 June 2021, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) updated its advisory on requirements for safe management measures at the workplace (“MOM advisory”). The Enterprise Singapore (“ESG”) guidance note on safe management measures for companies (“ESG guidance note”) was updated on 7 June 2021. Set out below are some key points to note for employers and businesses.
Work-from-home as default mode of work
The MOM Advisory and its Annex B, which sets out a checklist of safe management measures at the workplace for resumption of business activities, were updated to emphasise work-from-home as the default mode of work. In particular, employers must ensure that all employees who are able to work from home do so.
Companies may adopt additional safe management measures
The ESG guidance note proposes the following additional safe management measures that companies may wish to employ, to safeguard the health of employees and customers. These additional safe management measures are on top of the minimum standards specified in the national and sectoral rules (e.g. the MOM advisory):
- Test: For employees not on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Rostered Routing Testing (“RRT”), companies may consider putting employees on regular testing using alternative tests such as Antigen Rapid Test (ART), especially if the employees are working in higher risk settings where there is a high density of unmasked people who are in close proximity to one another for prolonged periods of time.
- Trace: Proactively manage potential contacts of Covid-19 cases at the workplace to prevent clusters forming:
- If an employee/visitor has tested positive for Covid-19, the company should immediately ask any staff who were in close contact with the employee/visitor in the last 14 days (for example, working in the same zone or on the same shift) to self-isolate while the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) performs contact tracing.
- When three or more epidemiologically linked Covid-19 cases are formed at the workplace, test all high risk employees to detect additional cases before resuming operations. High risk employees are recommended to be placed on a seven-day RRT after reopening.
- Vaccinate: Companies should encourage workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
In addition to testing, tracing and vaccinating more aggressively, companies are urged to adhere strictly to prevailing safe management measures, and update their workplace protocols to take into account the latest public health advisories in the following ways:
- Enforce mask discipline: Employees and patrons should use masks with good filtration capability. These include (a) disposable surgical masks with a minimum bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of 95%, and (b) reusable masks that are made of at least two layers of fabric, such as masks issued by the People’s Association and Temasek Foundation. More information on masks is available in the Health Science Authority’s article titled “What you need to know about Masks”.
- Avoid workplace gatherings: All large meetings or events at the workplace should be avoided as far as possible. If such meetings/events have to be held physically and cannot be held virtually, they must be capped at
50 persons, with one metre safe distancing maintained between attendees. Food and drinks are also not allowed at work-related events. Employees should also not mingle with each other in social settings outside the workplace.
- Ventilate workplace: Workplaces should maximise fresh air intake, and ensure appropriate cleaning of recirculated air by keeping ventilation systems in good working order. If necessary, companies should consider purchasing portable air cleaners with high-efficiency air filters such as HEPA filters, which are effective at removing virus aerosols. More information on detailed technical recommendations for premises according to the type of ventilation systems used is available at the Building and Construction Authority’s (“BCA”) guidance note on improving ventilation and indoor air quality in buildings.
The requirements set out in the MOM advisory 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, BCA and ESG will continue to enforce safe management measures and take action against errant employers. This may include issuing stop-work orders and financial penalties.