Coronavirus: MOM stepping up inspections in factory-converted dorms

A room in a floating accommodation facility at Tanjong Pagar Terminal that is temporarily housing foreign workers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stepped up inspections at factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) to ensure that living conditions are acceptable, in light of the spread of the coronavirus through the foreign worker community here.

Between April 11 and April 13, MOM officers inspected over 600 FCDs located at Sungei Kadut, Tuas and other locations across Singapore. FCDs are industrial or warehouse developments that have been partially converted to dormitories.

According to MOM, the vast majority of the FCDs inspected have instituted safe distancing measures and health checks for their residents, whom they observed to have no well-being or salary issues.

Minor lapses were found in 57 FCDs, with the most prevalent issue being a lack of sickbays and isolation areas. MOM also found the cleanliness levels of some FCDs to be unacceptable and instructed the operators to rectify the issues immediately ahead of follow-up inspections.

MOM also conducted separate inspections on Monday to ensure that migrant workers are observing circuit breaker measures. At Tuas View Square, inspectors found 24 work pass holders eating, drinking and gathering in groups.

MOM has revoked all their work passes and permanently barred them from working in Singapore.

In a separate advisory issued on Monday (April 13), it said employers must also ensure work pass holders remain in their residence as much as possible.

"During this period, employers must ensure prompt payment of salary and the well-being of their workers," the ministry added, stressing that it will take action against employers as well as work pass holders for any instances of irresponsible practices and behaviour.

This includes the revocation of work pass privileges for errant employers.

The advisory covers factory-converted dormitories, which are industrial or warehouse developments that have been partially converted to dormitories; construction temporary quarters, or transient structures used for housing employees within a construction site; and temporary occupation licence quarters, or government-licensed temporary quarters on a plot of land near a construction site.

The coronavirus has been rampant in foreign worker dormitories here, with eight dormitories gazetted as isolation areas under the Infectious Diseases Act.

The new measures include ensuring there is no inter-mixing of workers at the dormitory or temporary quarters.

Employers should cater meals for their workers during this period, said MOM, so that they need not leave their quarters.

They should also monitor their workers' health and take their temperatures twice daily.

If any of them develops a fever or any flu-like symptoms - such as cough, runny nose or shortness of breath - they should report to the dorm operator immediately and seek medical treatment.

They should schedule for workers to have some time - ideally at least an hour - out of their rooms in open spaces around the dormitory, during which they should not mix with residents from other blocks, and where possible from other floors.

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Other than this, workers should stay only in their rooms, where they should maintain a distance of at least 1m from each other.

During their allotted time outside, workers may leave the dormitory to buy essentials or to run important errands, such as remitting money.

They should return to their quarters within the time period given to them and it should be mandatory for them to register their time in and out, as well as their intended destination and purpose.

Workers should not linger in the walkways or common areas of the quarters, as well as in public places, and should avoid crowds. They should wear a mask as a form of protection when they need to go out.

Social gatherings in public are not allowed.

"We need you to engage your workers and help them understand that these are important and necessary adjustments for their health and safety," said MOM.

"Workers who do not cooperate will be fined. They will also risk having their work passes revoked and being permanently barred from working in Singapore."

It advised that workers should download and activate the TraceTogether app on their smart phones.

In response to the advisory, the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (Scal) said that dorm operators or employers will have to arrange for these measures to be implemented correctly.

"At the construction sites where essential work is still required, contractors are already implementing safe distancing measures," said a spokesman. "These include ferrying fewer workers with more trips."

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