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Revised Guidelines for the Protection of Employees Against the Effects of Haze at Workplaces by MOM

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MOM has updated its guidelines for employers on protecting employees from the effects of haze, in accordance with MOH's revised health advisory. They will help employers exercise their duty of care for the safety and health of their workers.

During haze episodes, depending upon the PSI, employees may be exposed to higher levels of safety and health risk due to the haze.

Employers are responsible to continue to do their part to protect their workers' safety and health. They should carry out a proper risk assessment and to implement appropriate measures to ensure that risks identified are minimised or mitigated.

MOM's guidelines provide employers with general measures for workplace safety and health protection in the event of haze. Additional measures specific to the work requirements and conditions should be instituted based on the risk as assessed by the employers.

Some of the key measures are as follows:

  • First, employers should identify susceptible1 employees. Risk management measures to protect these employees should then be adopted based on MOM's guidelines.
  • Next, employers should identify the types of outdoor work2 to be reduced when there is haze, and determine the criteria for restricting outdoor work. As a first consideration, prolonged3 or strenuous4 outdoor work should be reduced or avoided, dependent on the PSI level and the primary pollutant. Should air pollution levels reach hazardous levels, outdoor work should be minimised. Employers should be flexible, especially for the more vulnerable workers. Wherever you can, do consider adjusting work processes5 and putting in flexible work arrangements6 to ensure workers' safety and health are protected.
  • Employers should consider instituting regular breaks and encourage hydration of employees, especially those performing outdoor work.
  • As air quality worsens and reaches hazardous levels, employers could consider taking additional risk- mitigating measures such as job redeployment, reducing the intensity and duration of outdoor work, instituting regular breaks or deferring non-essential jobs.
  • Visibility factors should also be taken into account. For example, risk assessments should be conducted to determine whether outdoor lifting operations involving tower and mobile cranes should cease due to the foreseeable risk of poor visibility, so as not to compromise safety of persons at work. Such work can only be carried out when appropriate precautions have been taken to reduce the risk.
  • In general, if prolonged and strenuous outdoor work is not avoidable at higher PSI, and an employer still requires an employee to do so due to extenuating circumstances, suitable masks (for example, N95 masks) should be provided. Employers should refer to MOM's guidelines for more specific advice on actions to be taken at different PSI.
  • If masks are used, employers and employees should note that these may increase the effort of breathing. Risk assessment, taking into account the usage of the masks, individual employee's heath conditions and nature of outdoor work, must be conducted.
  • Employers should also have a two-way communication system in place to update employees regularly about the measures taken to minimise the effects of haze on employees, as well as for employees to report adverse effects suffered as a result of the haze.

For more details on MOM's Guidelines for the Protection of Employees Against the Effects of Haze at Workplaces, please refer to the link here.

1In general, elderly or pregnant employees, and people with chronic lung disease, heart disease are more sensitive to the health effects of haze.
2Outdoor work is work that is carried out outside buildings regularly or most of the time.
3Prolonged = continuous exposure for several hours.
4Strenuous = involving a lot of energy or effort.
5This includes the use of mechanical aids (e.g. trolleys, hoists) for transporting or carrying heavy objects instead of manual lifting or carrying.
6This includes adjusting work assignments or rotate jobs to shorten the time spent in outdoor work.