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MOM to enforce safe-distancing measures; firms which flout rules face stop-work order

COMPANIES which do not adhere to recently unveiled safe-distancing measures could face stop-work or remedial orders, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has warned.

On March 20, MOM strongly advised companies to implement these measures, which include telecommuting for staff, staggered working hours, and adequate spacing between workstations.

In an updated advisory on Thursday, it said it would be taking enforcement action against companies which do not implement the measures, including ordering them to cease operations until the measures are put in place.

In a Facebook post, the ministry said government officers had visited more than 100 companies in the past four days, and issued 34 stop-work orders and 36 remedial orders. 

Said MOM occupational safety and health division inspector Raymond Koh: "Beyond enforcement, it is important to help employers understand the gaps that must be rectified to limit the spread of Covid-19 at work premises."

In its list of safe-distancing measures, MOM said employers must allow employees to work from home if they can do so, and provide them with the necessary IT equipment.

Special attention should be paid to older employees, pregnant women, and staff with underlying medical conditions, including temporarily redeploying them to other roles suited to telecommuting, the ministry added.

MOM also called for companies to defer or cancel all events involving close and prolonged contact among participants.

For job roles where employees are unable to work from home, MOM said employers must reduce the number and duration of physical interactions, including limiting meetings and ensuring workstations and meeting room seats are spaced at least a metre apart, with clear demarcations.

The one-metre spacing rule also applies to common spaces such as entrances, lifts, pantries, and canteens, as well as workplace gatherings such as the celebration of birthdays, which should be kept to no more than 10 attendees.

The ministry also ordered employers to implement staggered working hours to reduce potential congregation of employees at common spaces.

These staggered working hours must be implemented over at least three one-hour blocks, with not more than half of all employees reporting to work within each block.

Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, particularly if staff need to take public transport.

Timings for lunch and other breaks must also be staggered, the ministry said.

Companies with frontline or customer-facing operations are expected to adopt queue-management measures to reduce physical interactions between service staff and customers, including mobile ordering and contactless payment.

For deliveries, companies must stagger delivery times by different suppliers and keep the durations of transactions as short as possible.

For industries such as manufacturing, employers should consider deploying employees in shifts while extending operational hours to maintain production output.

Alternatively, they can implement split-team arrangements, where employees are assigned to work under alternate teams and deployed according to different work schedules or at different sites.

MOM added that employers should explain new arrangements to employees prior to implementing them.