Do more to protect outdoor workers

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?

Jolovan Wham
Executive Director
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Do more to protect outdoor workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe