Schools have been closed intermittently for a while now based on the government’s orders as it is not advisable to stay outdoors due to the haze blowing over from Indonesia. Previously, there was no such missive from them for the workforce, even though some of our work brings us outdoors which is not good for our health either.
However, the Human Resources Ministry has finally spoken out and said that it is recommended for employers to have flexible work policies during this haze period and allow their staff to work from home.
According to The Star, the issue of health and safety of workers during the haze was brought up in a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (September 18).
The ministry said that employers are responsible for the health and safety of their staff and employers can implement this policy if the need arises. They recommend that employers should perform risk assessments to see whether employees need to come out to work so that their health is not jeopardised.
Their statement said, “Labour laws in Malaysia do not prohibit employers from specifying a place of employment other than those specified in a contract. Depending on circumstances such as haze or flood, workers can work from home as a temporary measure until conditions are restored.”
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1994 (OSHA) states that the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) can order any occupation that is deemed to be affected by haze to be stopped if the situation endangers the health and safety of the employees.
If employers are found to be violating the Stop Work Order under OSHA, they can be fined a maximum of RM50,000 or jailed for up to five years or both. On top of that, A further fine of RM500 for each day the offence continues will be added.
Some of the measures that employers can take to ensure that the haze does not affect their workers are to identify which of their employees have health problems and taking precautionary measures such as providing N95 masks.
They would also need to set criteria for stopping or minimising work outside based on the current conditions. Employees who are sick and have symptoms such as sore throat and cough, red and watery eyes, sneezing, itching and breathing difficulties should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
When will the haze ever end?