SINGAPORE - High barriers to create a safe physical distance of at least 1m between employees' workstations, as well as in shared spaces such as pantries and meeting rooms, or using visual markers to achieve a similar result, are among new measures that must be in place from May 12 to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
From the same day, when more businesses resume operations, the Government will also require taxis to progressively put in place a national digital check-in system, called SafeEntry, for passengers so that contact tracers can find close contacts of infected cases quickly.
Taxi passengers are encouraged to log in and out of cabs by scanning the SafeEntry QR code.
Other locations, such as supermarkets and workplaces like offices and factories will also need to have this check-in system from May 12 for staff, visitors and customers.
These measures and others were announced on Saturday (May 9) by the tripartite partners comprising the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation, and separately by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office.
They come on the heels of Government's announcement earlier that some businesses like barbers, home-based bakers and laundry services will be allowed to resume operating on May 12.
The tripartite partners said that from May 12, workplaces in general must have safe management measures that ensure a safe working environment and minimise risks of further disease outbreaks.
MASKS AT WORKPLACE A MUST
For instance, employers must require all on-site personnel - including employees, visitors, suppliers and contractors - to don masks in the workplace at all times except during activities that require masks to be removed.
Companies must have a detailed plan to monitor staff to ensure they comply with the safe management measures, and appoint safe management officers to help implement the measures at workplaces, as well as conduct inspections and checks.
REDUCING PHYSICAL INTERACTIONS
Businesses need to cut physical interactions at the workplace and make sure safe distancing is observed, such as by ensuring workers can work from home where possible. Such telecommuting options are advised for vulnerable employees such as older workers, pregnant employees and those with underlying medical conditions.
Events and activities in the workplace which involve close or prolonged contact between people, such as conferences, seminars and exhibitions, must be cancelled or deferred.
Social gatherings at the workplace such as interactions at staff canteens or coming together in groups during meals and breaks must also be cancelled or deferred.
STAGGERED HOURS, SPLIT TEAMS
When working from home is not possible, employers must ensure precautions are in place before work can resume, such as staggering working and break hours.
Businesses can also arrange staff to work shifts, work in split teams or report to different worksites, but they must ensure they do not cross deploy workers nor allow workers from different shifts, teams or worksites to interact.
The number of physical surfaces workers come into contact with, such as swipe scanners, should be reduced, and these surfaces should be frequently disinfected.
For contact tracing efforts, employers have been encouraged to get workers to use the SafeEntry and TraceTogether apps at the workplace.
Aside from more frequent cleaning and conducting regular temperature screening of workers and visitors, employers need to also have a plan to evacuate workers who are unwell or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus.
Some companies said they have already been preparing for some of the measures announced on Saturday.
PBA Group chief executive Derrick Yap said that his firm has already implemented safe distancing measures like staggered work timings in preparation for the circuit breaker period.
He is also hoping to use the slower business environment due to Covid-19 to test flexible work arrangements, which may be implemented permanently at his robotics automation company, which has 200 workers in Singapore.
"We might allow one position to start working from home one day a week, and see how things go," he said. Depending on the results, he may expand it to other positions or allow workers to work from home for two days a week.
OE Manufacturing managing director James Wong said that his company, which makes hydraulic cylinders, will have safe distancing measures in place until a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed.
His office and factory have at most half of its workers on-site, with the rest at home, he added. "We will continue with the wearing of masks and make sure we don't stand too close to each other when talking," added Mr Wong, who has 25 workers in Singapore.
Noting the various safe management measures employers can implement based on their workplace, Mr Wong said that his company chose to demarcate the floors to show where employees should stand when they are talking with each other. Each marking is 1m apart, he added.
"It may not be very practical to set up high barriers," he said.