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Low wage workers labouring outdoors are the most vulnerable during a haze. While the Ministry of Manpower has been resistant to calling for a stop work order, we urge it to consider doing so when the index reaches the very unhealthy and hazardous range of the PSI Index for non-essential services. This is especially so for older workers and those in the construction sector, where heavy and physical exertion may exacerbate breathing difficulties. Those in the essential services should be subjected to pro-active checks by government safety inspectors when PSI levels are too high.
The Ministry of Manpower has also issued several guidelines to employers and workers to mitigate the risks of the haze. However, many workers are unaware of these measures as they are only available in English and can only be accessed on the internet. The Ministry of Manpower should consider working with NGOs and other community groups to reach out to workers on work sites and purpose built dormitories to ensure compliance, and raise awareness of the government’s recommended measures.
Workers have also been urged to raise their concerns to their HR manager or supervisors in the event of employer non-compliance with the safety measures. Companies have also been urged to establish grievance handling procedures in such situations. However, many workers are often reluctant to do so for fear of causing trouble and losing their jobs in the process. Debt laden migrant workers are the most vulnerable in such situations. How will the Ministry of Manpower protect worker’s jobs in such situations?