COVID-19 Employment Update: Heightened Workplace Safety Requirements in Singapore

By Seow Hui Goh, Natasha Cheng

03-2020

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) requires companies to put in place safe distancing measures to reduce physical interactions amongst employees.

W.e.f 27 March 2020 for all work that can be performed from home, this must be allowed and facilitated by employers.

W.e.f 20 March 2020 for jobs which cannot be carried out from the home, employers should implement the following safe distancing measures at the workplace:

  1. Ensure that the workstations and seats are no less than 1 metre apart.

    Introduce a physical demarcation of 1 metre at workstations and in common areas such as the pantry. 

  2. Reduce the duration and proximity of physical interactions.

    Limit the number of attendees if there is a need for physical meetings. The duration of physical meetings should be shortened and seats in the meeting room should be spaced at least 1 metre apart.

  3. Stagger working hours.

    For reporting and ending times with a minimum of three one-hourly blocks and no more than 50 percent of total employees reporting to work within each one-hour block. The reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak- hour travel.

  4. Postpone or downsize the attendance of non-critical work events.

    For critical high key work events which cannot be deferred, employers must limit the number of participants to 250 at any point in time and put in place measures to ensure that participants are no less than 1 metre apart.

  5. Implement or enhance shift or split team arrangements.

Split team arrangements refer to allocating employees under alternate teams (e.g. Team A & Team B). Employees can be activated according to their respective work schedules or deployed to different work sites.

Team A and Team B should be physically segregated to avoid the risk of infection between teams.

The MOM has to-date issued 13 stop-work orders (SWOs) and 8 remedial orders (ROS) to employers found to have fallen below the standards required for safe distancing.  These orders will remain in effect until rectifications have been made as determined by MOM. MOM has confirmed that such spot checks and inspections will continue.

To avoid potential disruption and penalties, businesses are expected to take safe distancing measures and government advisories seriously. Employees should also be reminded of their individual social responsibility to comply with such measures.

This article is produced by our Singapore office, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide general information only. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on any changes as soon as these are communicated to us. Please contact our lawyers if you have any specific queries.