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Adopting Safe Management Measures In Covid-19 Times

Adopting Safe Management Measures In Covid-19 Times

  • 14 April 2020
  • By Francis Chan, Rajah & Tann Legal Basix Practice Group
  • 4 mins read

As our economy gradually reopens, a set of safe management measures (SMM) has been issued by the government to ensure that businesses which are allowed to resume operations are Covid-19 safe. Failure to properly implement SMMs may result in enforcement action being taken which includes a stop-work order and financial penalties. This article serves as an introduction to the “Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the Workplace” advisory by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Appointing a Safe Management Officer

First, businesses should appoint a Safe Management Officer (SMO) to oversee the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the SMM. It is the duty of the SMO to:

  1. Coordinate implementation of SMM – these including preparing guidelines to be followed and communicating such guidelines to employees;
  2. Conduct inspections and checks – the SMO should draw up a plan for checks to be carried out and for non-compliance to be recorded;
  3. Remedy non-compliance – the SMO must take action or have measures in place to address if any breaches or non-compliance of SMM; and
  4. Keeping records of inspections, checks and corrective action – such records must be kept and produced on request by government inspectors.

Reducing the risk of transmission

The SMM must address minimizing physical interactions and safe distancing. Up till now and despite moving into phase 2, the MOM has made it clear that where possible telecommuting should still remain the default. Businesses have to support telecommuting by providing the necessary equipment for employees to do so, minimize the need for physical meetings and cancel events and activities involving close contact.

Where telecommuting is not possible, employers must ensure that the following non-exhaustive precautions are in place:

  1. Staggered work and break hours – in particular, businesses must note that staggered work hours must be implemented over at least three 1-hour blocks with no more than half the employees in one group. One way to administer this easily is by creating a timetable for employees to follow;
  2. Reducing congregation at workplace and minimizing common physical touchpoints – there should be a system in place to reduce overcrowding and congregation e.g. at the office entrance and at common areas;
  3. Implementing shift or split team arrangements – there must not be any cross deployment between teams. Some businesses split their employees into two groups and have each group work from home on alternate weeks. Other businesses have specific days of the week where employees can work from home;
  4. Ensuring safe distancing – distance between work stations and safe distancing in common spaces should be indicated with visual markers (physical spacing of at least 1 meter between persons at all times); and
  5. Controlling access to workplace and minimizing physical interactions with suppliers and contractors. Delivery times by different suppliers should be scheduled in a staggered manner.
  6. Offices are also required to deploy SafeEntry to log the check-in of employees and visitors and to ensure that employees and visitors check in and out using SafeEntry. This is to assist contact tracing efforts.

The SMM should also address the use of personal protective equipment, observation of personal hygiene, cleanliness of workplace as well as establish protocols to monitor the implementation of the SMM, the evacuation of potential Covid-19 cases and what should be done in the event that there is a confirmed case. You can refer to MOM’s checklist of SMMs for detailed requirements.

Businesses should prepare a set of SMM guidelines to help their employees understand what are the measures in place and what they need to comply with as businesses are required to “communicate and explain” the measures in place before resuming work. Businesses should also put up the necessary signs to remind employees of the measures in place such as practicing safe distancing and good hygiene.

To assist businesses, the MOM has also provided businesses with a list of resources such as technology solutions and grants available to assist companies.

Conclusion

As businesses are eager to resume operations, careful attention must be taken to do so in accordance with the latest requirements / guidelines / advisories issued by the various ministries which they may be required to follow. This must be taken seriously as ignorance will not excuse non-compliance and a failure to comply may expose the business to penalties such as fines, imprisonment or debarment of work pass application privileges. The MOM has also stated that it will investigate complaints and cases where employers are alleged to have disregarded such guidelines and advisories. In order to ensure that there are minimal disruptions to their operations, employers are well advised to comply.

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OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS

Francis Chan — Deputy Head (Disputes)
Rajah & Tann Legal Basix Practice Group

Francis Chan — Deputy Head (Disputes)
Rajah & Tann Legal Basix Practice Group

Francis is a leader of Rajah & Tann’s Legal Basix practice which provides growth-stage legal advice, representation and documentation to emerging enterprises, start-ups, SMEs and high growth companies. Francis advises clients in respect of commercial disputes involving shareholders / directors, tenancy, contract and debt recovery. Francis specialises in employment law and has advised institutional employers and C-suite/management level employees including conducting investigations and disciplinary proceedings, litigating employment disputes, and engaging with and resolving disputes with the MOM / CPF Board / TADM / TAFEP and union representatives.