SINGAPORE – When news of a virus outbreak in Wuhan broke early last year, Ms Christina Chua had to dust off the old protocols her company used during the Sars outbreak in 2003.
With little information about the new disease, manufacturer’s health, safety and environment manager Cameron Singapore relied on past experience to make sure her workplace was safe, emphasizing implement temperature control and other controls even before sound management measures are adopted.
She spent nights navigating new border restrictions to ensure workers can return to work here, and proposed new protocols for the ever-changing Covid-19 rules.
This was all in addition to his usual job of making sure his business was accident-free.
“It was a really big fight, dealing with the pandemic and also the security,” the 47-year-old told the Straits Times.
She attributed the support of her management and the robust systems that were already in place to make things a little easier.
The pandemic has forced security officers like Ms Chua to think about new standard operating procedures and take on more responsibility than they normally would.
Speaking at a conference Wednesday, November 10, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said these officers have become even more critical than before, especially as companies need to dealing with new risks, such as epidemics of infectious diseases, mental health and terrorism, in the new normal.
The conference was a hybrid conference held at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability and on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Council has revised its risk management code of practice to include these new risks, and more is being done to train security guards to be ready for the future. .
But Mr Zaqy also admitted that many security guards struggled to cope with their additional roles.
He said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had received “candid feedback” that the past two years had been difficult for security officers juggling accident prevention and prevention of transmission of Covid-19.
Those who do not receive more resources and support have seen even worse.
Mr Zaqy said: “For companies to manage both injury and prevention of Covid-19 well, they need to recognize the valuable role of the WSHO (Occupational Safety and Health Officers) and empower them with the resources and appropriate skills … These cannot be the sole responsibility of the WSHOs, they are the responsibility of the entire company. “
Observers have already raised concerns that safety will be compromised on construction sites due to the disruption and labor shortage caused by Covid-19.
Workplace injury rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels and there have been at least 32 workplace fatalities this year, more than the 30 fatalities recorded last year.
Mr. Zaqy said the government will do its part to support the security guards.
The risk management code of practice, which provides guidance on regulatory obligations and the implementation of risk controls, will include examples on how to identify, assess and manage risks from infectious diseases, to mental health and terrorism.
The nationally recognized BizSafe program will also include these new risks.
Over the next few months, MOM inspectors will research these new elements and advise companies on how to incorporate them if they are missing from their risk assessment processes, Zaqy said.
The WSH Council said that Covid-19 has not only reinforced the need to mitigate the transmission of infectious diseases, but also the growing risk to the mental well-being of workers.
As for terrorism, although there have been no significant trends recently, such threats remain “real and present,” the council said.
Therefore, risk management processes must remain relevant to deal with it, he said.
Meanwhile, MOM is working with the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (Siso) to recognize more training courses to support professional development.
Siso and the Institute for Employment and Employability will also create the first job portal dedicated to security guards. It will be launched next February.
A career development plan for security guards is also being developed, to help provide a structured career path and attract more locals to the area.
Siso Vice President Darajit Daud said: “As we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic … crisis management has taken on new meaning, and the integration of health and good – being at work has become vital for successful businesses in the new normal. “
He added: “WSH agents will have to take on a new level of responsibility.”