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Protecting workers from the haze

  • The Straits Times (3 October 2015): Protecting workers from the haze
  • The Straits Times (29 September 2015): Do more to protect outdoor workers

Protecting workers from the haze
- ST, 3 October 2015

  1. We refer to the letter by Mr Jolovan Wham ("Do more to protect outdoor workers", 29 Sep 2015).
  2. The health and safety of workers are key concerns during this haze period. This is why even as businesses continue to function, they should not compromise on the health and safety of their workers. This is a more sustainable and balanced approach as risk levels differ across different locations, the nature of work, working conditions and other factors, such as an individual employee's health.
  3. We have been working closely with employer groups and unions to educate employers on measures to protect their employees from the effects of haze through the haze advisories and guidelines. This includes making regular assessments about the suitability for work to continue, and to put in place relevant safety measures to protect workers. For example, prolonged or strenuous outdoor work should be minimised or avoided when the air quality deteriorates. Risk mitigating measures that can be adopted include making use of mechanical aids to make work less strenuous, rotating jobs, and scheduling more rest breaks for employees performing outdoor work. More information can be obtained from
  4. On the enforcement front, MOM continues to conduct regular inspections of workplaces, and will address any haze-related complaints received. Employees should raise their concerns first with their employers. They can also call the MOM Occupational Safety and Health hotline at 6317 1111 or email if they have significant health and safety concerns. Their identities will be kept strictly confidential. As worksite inspections are generic, employees need not fear reprisals from their employers.

Do more to protect outdoor workers
- ST, 29 September 2015

Low-wage workers labouring outdoors are the most vulnerable during the haze.

We urge the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to consider calling for a stop-work order for non-essential services when air quality readings hit very unhealthy and hazardous levels.

This is especially important in the case of older workers and those in the construction sector, where heavy and physical exertion may exacerbate breathing difficulties.

Those in the essential services should be subjected to proactive checks by government safety inspectors when PSI levels are high.

The MOM has also issued several guidelines to employers and workers to mitigate the risks of the haze. However, many workers are unaware of these measures as they are available only in English and can be accessed only on the Internet.

The MOM should consider working with non-governmental organisations and other community groups to reach out to workers at work sites and purpose-built dormitories to ensure compliance, and to raise awareness of the Government's recommended measures.

Workers have also been urged to raise their concerns with their human resource managers or supervisors in the event of employer non-compliance with the safety measures. Companies have also been urged to establish grievance-handling procedures.

However, many workers are often reluctant to do so for fear of causing trouble and losing their jobs in the process. Debt-laden migrant workers are the most vulnerable in such situations.

How can their jobs be protected?