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What other workplace measures can companies consider or do to mitigate the impact of the haze on workers?

Risk assessments and mitigating measures

All employers should carry out proper risk assessments of their various work activities and implement appropriate measures, to ensure that the risks identified are minimised or mitigated.

Depending on the air quality, employers should first find ways to reduce or avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor work. Risk assessments, taking into account the impact of the haze, individual employee’s health, work demands and fatigue, etc, must be conducted and risk mitigating measures adopted to reduce the risks to workers to as low as reasonably practicable.

Examples of such risk mitigating measures include:

  1. Use mechanical aids (e.g. trolleys, hoists) to transport or carry heavy objects instead of manual lifting or carrying.
  2. Adjust work assignments or rotate jobs to shorten the time spent in outdoor work.
  3. Schedule sufficient indoor rest breaks for workers performing outdoor work.
  4. Ensure adequate hydration for workers.
  5. Monitor employees’ health by encouraging feedback on any symptoms that may occur.
  6. Defer non-essential work

Wearing of masks and respirators

If prolonged or strenuous outdoor work is unavoidable such as due to extenuating circumstances, employer is strongly urged to provide masks for such workers. Employees who need to wear masks or respirators should be fit-tested to ensure good fit.

Employers should also ensure sufficient stock of masks or respirators for these employees, and to conduct proper training and supervision to ensure correct usage of the masks or respirators.

Masks should be changed when soiled or physically damaged or when the wearer finds it hard to breathe.

Vulnerable employees, such as the elderly, pregnant employees as well as those with chronic heart or lung disease, should consult their treating doctors on the usage of masks.

Reference should be made to the Singapore Standard SS 548:2009: Code of Practice for Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective devices.

Flexible work arrangements

During haze episodes, employers are strongly encouraged to adopt a flexible and enlightened approach in allowing employees to use flexible work arrangements. This is especially so for vulnerable employees, such as the elderly, pregnant and those with chronic heart or lung illnesses. Such flexible work arrangements may include telecommuting.

If their employees feel unwell and wish to rest at home, employers are encouraged to be flexible in allowing them to take their leave. For employees who have used up their paid annual leave or sick leave entitlements, employers could consider granting them advance leave or other leave arrangements. In such situations, the employees’ wages should not be deducted.