The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has urged all employers to take special care of their workers as haze conditions in Singapore reached Unhealthy levels.
In a media statement issued on Monday (Sep 14), NTUC said employers should step up vigilance amid the current haze situation and ensure the welfare of workers is not compromised.
"Employers are reminded to continually assess haze-related risks and adopt appropriate measures to safeguard the safety and health of their workers, especially those whose work requires them to be outdoors for a majority of the time," said director of NTUC's Workplace Safety and Health Secretariat Yeo Guat Kwang.
Mr Yeo, who is also the chairman of the Migrant Workers' Centre, added that it is the duty of employers to ensure all necessary precautions are taken to minimise risks posed by haze exposure during this period, and to exercise discretion when deploying workers outdoors - such as ensuring that appropriate protective gear is issued for outdoor work.
"On the part of workers, we urge everyone to exercise self-care, which includes making sure that the protective gears issued to them are used, and used correctly," Mr Yeo said, adding that both employers and workers should monitor the situation closely and look out for advisories issued by relevant authorities.
HAZE CONTINGENCY PLANS ALREADY IN PLACE
Companies are keeping a close eye on the situation and some have started to activate their haze contingency plans.
Over at construction firm Kori Holdings, supervisors will update workers on the PSI levels and ask if anyone has health concerns, before work begins on a site in the morning. N95 masks are also available for those who are not feeling well. Kori said it has so far not received any report of workers requiring medical attention due to the haze, but if the situation worsens, it expects business to be affected.
"If we are at the level which is very unhealthy for a prolonged period of time, it would have some impact on our productivity," said Kori Holdings CEO Hooi Yu Koh. "And naturally if productivity drops, it would have an impact on delays. And if delays come into the picture, it may have cost implications."
"Apart from that, we need to switch on spotlights more often due to visibility issues, so there will be an increase in cost in terms of consumption of electricity, and potentially more workers requiring to seek medical attention," added Mr Hooi.
Meanwhile, at Changi Airport, about 2,500 free masks and antiseptic wipes have been given to taxi drivers queuing to pick up passengers. This is an initiative by the National Taxi Association to help cabbies combat the haze.
It is not the first time the association is handing out these haze kits, and its executive advisor Mr Ang Hin Kee said drivers do go in and out of the car to help passengers with their luggage or to wash and refuel their cars.
"Over the last few days, we have monitored that the haze levels have hovered between the Unhealthy range and Moderate levels, so it is timely for us to restart our initiative to give out masks and antiseptic hand wipes to our taxi drivers," he said.
At WestGate Mall, employees and outsourced staff working outdoors have been asked to put on their masks when the air quality reaches Unhealthy levels.
"When the haze reaches a certain level, for example 100, we will distribute masks to them, and if it exceeds a certain higher level like 150, we will reduce the rotation shifts, and reduce some of the work required," said Mr Jason Loy, head of operations in Singapore at CapitaLand Mall Asia. "For example in a particular mall, if they need to do outdoor cleaning for four to five hours, we will reduce it to two hours."
CapitaLand Mall Asia, one of the biggest mall operators in the Republic, said its haze management plan covers all of its 19 shopping malls in Singapore. The firm will also close outdoor playgrounds and gardens at its malls, when the PSI crosses 150.
It is also giving out haze kits, comprising masks and bottled water, to patrons who are feeling unwell.