SINGAPORE - Close to 140 firms were told to cease on-site operations after serious breaches of Covid-19 workplace safe management measures introduced in March last year.
Over 280 firms were fined for failing to adhere to the measures, after an inspection of more than 36,000 workplaces since last March, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a Facebook post on Saturday (Feb 6).
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an MOM spokesman said: "The most common violation seen was companies having a high percentage of employees reporting to the workplace for extended periods despite them being able to perform their work from home."
Some companies had also failed to implement safe distancing measures at workstations and meeting rooms, such as not spacing chairs 1m apart.
All companies fined by MOM were first-time offenders, said the spokesman.
Companies told to cease operations can resume when they have rectified the lapses.
With Chinese New Year around the corner, companies are reminded not to organise social gatherings such as lohei or Chinese New Year meals.
MOM suggested that companies can show their appreciation for staff by sending them care packs or organising virtual celebrations.
"Last month, Singapore saw the formation of two Covid-19 clusters at workplaces. The continued emergence of community cases and potentially more transmissible strains make the risk of workplace transmission a significant cause for concern," noted MOM in the Facebook post.
Golden Bridge Foods Manufacturing in Senoko had three Covid-19 cases linked to it - two co-workers and the wife of one of them. All three were confirmed positive between Jan 15 and Jan 18.
Another cluster at BS Industrial and Construction Supply in Kallang involved eight people - six employees, the wife of one of them, and a woman who lives with another of the employees. The cases were confirmed positive between Jan 18 and 21.
MOM added that when workplaces are inspected, the ministry will liaise with the companies' appointed safe management officers on their workplace health and safety plan.
The plans should include a roster for split team arrangements and an evacuation plan to be executed when there are unwell employees, especially those suspected to have Covid-19.
"There should be clear demarcation of safe physical distances (at least 1m apart), minimised common physical touchpoints, and regular cleaning of common spaces," said MOM.
For breaches of safe management measures, first-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and repeat offenders up to $2,000.
MOM reminded employers and employees to continue observing safe management measures at work, which will be vital for the safe reopening of the economy.
Workplace safe management measures were put in place since March last year, even before the circuit breaker began on April 7.
Lapses at the start of the circuit breaker included failing to conduct temperature screenings and to properly track employees and visitors’ entry into workplaces.
With more staff allowed to return to the workplace from Sept 28, safe management measures have since been eased.
But working from home remains the default option. Current guidelines require employers to ensure that employees whose jobs can be done from home continue to work from home for at least half of their working hours.