The haze in Singapore has hit a historical high with the PSI reported to have reached 321 at 10pm, 19 June 2013. Air quality is considered to be ‘unhealthy’ when PSI is above 100, ‘very unhealthy’ when above ‘200’ and ‘hazardous’ upon hitting 300. However, my father and his colleagues were still working at a construction site well past 10pm. The workplace did not carry out a risk assessment although the PSI has hit a record high; employees were not issued masks and were even asked to work overtime despite the worsening haze.
It is apparent that for construction work to be carried out in an environment where the PSI has soared beyond 300 is extremely unsafe. Employees are performing physically strenuous tasks and the hazardous air quality is detrimental to their health. Furthermore, the smog creates visual impairment. As visibility is compromised at the workplace, the employees’ safety is put at risk, especially in the building and construction industry where lifting operations are integral.
I quote the Workplace Safety & Health Act (WSH Act),
“In situations where haze poses imminent danger to the safety and health of workers and measures have not been taken to mitigate those risks, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) may order the affected work to stop. If any person (individual or corporate bodies) fails to comply with a stop work order, under the WSH Act he shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.”
However, there was no stop work order issued yesterday, even when the PSI has indicated that the haze was ‘hazardous’ at 321. My questions to you sir, is to ask at what point does the Ministry of Manpower determine that the haze is posing a threat serious enough, such that a stop work order would be issued; what exactly are the indicators that the ministry consider when making the decision? Are there any other indicators besides the PSI? Is there any measures taken to ensure that employees involved in outdoor work have their health and physical safety taken care of in a hazardous environment like what Singapore is currently having?
As a human, it is my wish to see that everyone has access to care and protection in the workplace, and not to be asked to work in a hazardous situation. As a daughter, my wish is to see my father return home safely each day. I am sure that there are many, many more sons and daughters who feel the same way that I do. We need transparency in this hazy situation; it is not safe to work outdoors in the thickest smog that Singapore has seen. I want to know at what point MOM deems a stop work order necessary. I genuinely hope to receive your response soon. Thank you for your patience.
Chun Kai Xin
Article first appeared on https://www.facebook.com/kaixinchun/posts/10151494556088193