COVID-19 struck the world and caused most activities to come to a standstill when it progressed into a worldwide epidemic in March. This has caused many things to be forced into adopting changes, including workplaces, places of worship, attractions, eating places, and most importantly, billions of lives around the world.
With the spread of COVID-19 faster than previous major epidemics, this has caused many policies and safeguarding measures to be implemented to prevent and slow down the spread of the disease.
In terms of general workplace health & safety, governments have in place guidelines for employers and employees to ensure social distancing measures are followed and to ensure the health and safety for all those within the workforce. Additionally, the WHO (World Health Organisation) had released a series of documents, which also include advisory guidelines for all workplaces on how to prepare before COVID-19 hits their region, or how to reduce and prevent the spread in the event that cases have been reported in the country.
Some nationwide guidelines that have been issued were to advise employers to allow most employees to start working from home when possible and to reinforce social distancing by allocating seating arrangements 1 meter apart from each other, staggering meal times and ensuring that those who are sick or unwell do not come to work and stay home to recuperate.
Non-essential travel was advised to be deferred, and those who needed to travel had to take a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) or Leave of Absence (LOA) when they were back, to prevent the spread of the virus, especially since many could be asymptomatic. With the situation changing daily, more measures were implemented, such as the requirement to wear masks for employees, and travel restrictions worldwide.
Employers have also been advised to encourage employees to go for health screening and check-up if they have traveled overseas or are feeling unwell. Not only that, but employees or individuals who are under the vulnerable category are also to take extra precautions while working and if possible, try to work from home or reduce frontline exposure.
Some examples of measures taken by many workplaces include temperature twice daily, introducing contact tracing for visitors by filling up forms or scanning QR codes to keep a record of their visits online, and increase the frequency of sanitization of places that especially come into contact with others daily.
Many employers have also provided employees with hand sanitizers or face masks to help them keep safe from the virus and prepare themselves for future measures. Some workplaces split workplaces into teams that would take turns to work from home or send at least 50% of their manpower to work from home instead of commuting. All large scale events or gatherings were also canceled, moving many meetings online, making use of video conferencing channels to communicate instead.
As some workplaces have been deemed non-essential upon the declaration of the circuit breaker measures in Singapore, many are forced to work from home. This has caused many to lose their jobs temporarily, some even lay off of them permanently for companies and sectors who are unable to work from home.
Many employers have pledged to provide their employees with ongoing pay for at least another month, and the government has provided a payout for all Singaporean citizens which would aid especially those who are struggling in the midst of this pandemic.
This season of the pandemic has taught us many lessons, and it has also helped us to realize that we are unable to fully go back to our old ways. Many did not realize the severity of the situation and took a long time to react to it, which cost us many lives and a prolonged period of disruption to everyone’s lives.
When we finally recover from the pandemic and its aftereffects, we must not forget the lessons that we have learned and what we have experienced from this incident, and hopefully, we will be more prepared in any case that such an event was to befall on us again. In terms of Workplace health and safety