Firms taking precautions against return of haze

Steps include stockpiling of N95 masks, making alternative work arrangements

COMPANIES here are readying themselves for the onset of the haze, with precautions ranging from redeploying staff and stockpiling masks to cutting back on work if needed.

Their efforts come amid warnings that this year's haze could be worse than last year's, which had caught many firms unprepared.

Peperoni Pizzeria and logistics firm DHL, for instance, said they will suspend delivery services if air quality reaches critical levels, to safeguard the welfare of their employees.

Said DHL Express Singapore senior vice-president and managing director Herbert Vongpusanachai: "In the worst-case scenario of suspending delivery, we... seek our customers' understanding on a slightly longer wait for their shipments to reach them."

Eight other firms approached by The Straits Times also said they are prepared for the haze, which could occur in the coming weeks.

Last year, many companies were caught flat-footed by the worst haze crisis in Singapore's history. Many employers found themselves scrambling to find masks or come up with alternative work arrangements.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has warned several times that this year's haze could be worse than last year's record pollution. Scientists expect the El Nino weather phenomenon, linked to droughts in South-east Asia, to worsen the fire risk.

All 10 firms approached by The Straits Times said they have contingency plans in place.

Most, including technology company 3M and United Overseas Bank, said they are stockpiling N95 masks and running filtration systems to regulate air quality.

Others, such as technology vendor Polycom and recruiter Talon Consulting, are making arrangements for their employees to work from home or other locations.

Talon Consulting's director Angeline Tan said the company would pay for airfares if employees want to work from abroad to escape the haze. The firm, which rents office spaces from workplace solutions provider Regus, is tapping the latter's network of 331 centres in the Asia-Pacific that staff can work from.

Restaurants such as Bistro Du Vin and Peperoni Pizzeria said they will minimise their staff's exposure to the haze.

"If the haze gets too serious, we will suspend delivery services... al fresco seating and have all staff remain in the restaurant," said Mr Adrian Tan, group manager of Peperoni Pizzeria.

The Singapore Business Federation has been distributing booklets containing information on how companies can better prepare for the haze.

This includes ensuring adequate mask supplies and activating work-from-home initiatives when the haze reaches hazardous levels.

The Government also said last month that it is prepared for the haze, and will roll out measures at places such as schools and health-care institutions if needed.

To protect students, for instance, schools have said they will modify lessons if the air becomes very unhealthy.

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