Companies step up measures as haze worsens in Singapore

Construction workers of Chong Brothers General Contractor were given masks when they turned up for work on Friday morning.
Construction workers of Chong Brothers General Contractor were given masks when they turned up for work on Friday morning. PHOTO: CHONG BROTHERS GENERAL CONTRACTOR
From left: McDonald's delivery riders Vicknesh, 24, Rosli, 47 and Mohammed Azmi, 27, turned up for work at an outlet at Toa Payoh this morning.
From left: McDonald's delivery riders Vicknesh, 24, Rosli, 47 and Mohammed Azmi, 27, turned up for work at an outlet at Toa Payoh this morning.ST PHOTO: JOYCE LIM

SINGAPORE - About 55 workers who turned up for work at a construction site on Pioneer Road were given masks to protect them before they start their outdoor work on Friday morning.

Project manager of Chong Brothers General Contractor, Mr Alvin Tang, told The Straits Times that the company has ordered N95 masks which offer better protection for workers. And these masks will be handed to the workers when stocks arrive later this morning.

"Workers are reminded to inform their supervisors if they do not feel well to work," said Mr Tang, 46.

"We told them that if they feel nausea or have a headache, they should stop working. We are monitoring the situation closely and we will follow the Ministry's guidelines to defer non-essential work when PSI level exceeds 300. We are also liaising with the main contractor for the project and prepared to stop work if situation worsens. Our workers' health and safety is our priority."

Singtel will suspend outdoor operations like work at rooftops and traffic junctions if the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reaches the hazardous level and continues into the subsequent hour, the telco said.

If the PSI crosses 350, it will temporarily stop home and office installations, and maintenance work. Affected customers will be contacted to reschedule their appointments. The telco will also distribute one N95 mask and one surgical mask to each of its 13,000 employees in Singapore.

At a McDonald's outlet in Toa Payoh, three delivery riders turned up for work at 8am, despite the fast food chain's suspension of its delivery on Thursday.

Said delivery rider Mohammed Azmi, 27: "We are on standby in case delivery resumes today. McDonald's have given us N95 masks for protection."

Mr Azmi said he was told he will continue to be paid $11 an hour for his shift, which stretches from 8am to 5pm.

But for prime mover driver Derrick Wong, 40, it will be another 15-hour workday.

He said: "My company issues a new mask to all drivers every day. But I bought a few more just in case. At the moment my work has not been affected, in fact, traffic is smooth this morning because of the schools' closure. But the haze has affected my health as I need to stay outdoors constantly for my work. I now have a sore throat and I have been coughing a lot due to the bad conditions."

All primary and secondary schools in Singapore have been forced to close on Friday due to the hazy conditions which threaten to become hazardous.

United Overseas Bank said it will be sensitive to the needs of staff who need to care for their children at home, adding that a few have called with such requests.

UOB added that its managers can also exercise their discretion to grant time-off or leave to those with chronic heart or lung problems, or who are pregnant.

Other companies say they will be prepared to let their employees work from home if the haze situation worsens.

Managing director of Asia PR Werkz, Ms Cho Pei Lin said: "As most of our work is indoors, we only implement work from home plans when the PSI level crosses 400 as it did previously."

joycel@sph.com.sg