On October 24, 2023, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) provided a significant update on improving heat stress prevention for outdoor workers. The rising temperatures in Singapore present a growing concern, particularly for outdoor workers who face an increased risk of heat stress. Unlike many in the general population, outdoor workers often have limited control over their work activities, making them more vulnerable to the adverse effects of excessive heat. In response to this challenge, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s Heat Stress Expert Panel, has introduced an enhanced set of measures to reduce heat stress risks for outdoor workers. These measures are aimed at immediate implementation to ensure the well-being and safety of those working outdoors.
Under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act, employers and occupiers have duties to ensure that workplaces are safe and without risks to the health of every person within the premises and to protect the safety and health of every employee. In light of the warming climate, outdoor workers, especially those engaged in manual labor, face an elevated risk of heat stress. All workplaces should assess the safety of outdoor work and implement a heat stress management program, including the key measures to reduce Heat Stress for Outdoor Workers. comprehensive approach.
The enhanced measures revolve around four key aspects: acclimatization, hydration, rest, and shade, each designed to provide protection to outdoor workers across various industries.
New workers or those returning from prolonged leave, extending over a week, must be given time to gradually adapt to the demands of outdoor work. Furthermore, all outdoor workers are required to hydrate at least once every hour and take regular rest breaks in shaded areas to help dissipate accumulated body heat.
Employers have an essential responsibility to monitor the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) for every hour of outdoor work, especially during the hotter parts of the day. Specifically, construction sites with a contract sum of S$5 million or more, shipyards, and the process industry are mandated to maintain on-site WBGT meters for localized measurements. Other workplaces can utilize the NEA’s myENV app to monitor WBGT readings.
When the WBGT reaches 32°C or higher, workers engaged in heavy physical activities are entitled to a minimum rest break of 10 minutes per hour under shaded areas. For workers with pre-existing health conditions, doctors’ advice should determine rest durations, which may be extended.
Employers are encouraged to implement a buddy system to facilitate the early recognition of heat injury symptoms. This system promotes prompt intervention when any worker exhibits signs of excessive heat exposure.
Enforcement and Implementation
These measures are not mere recommendations; they are now enforceable requirements for employers to reduce heat stress risks for outdoor workers. MOM will be conducting regular inspections at workplaces to ensure that these measures are adequately implemented, further strengthening the commitment to workers’ safety and health.
The introduction of enhanced measures to reduce heat stress for outdoor workers signifies a crucial step in safeguarding the well-being of those who tirelessly perform their duties outdoors. These comprehensive measures aim to protect outdoor workers across various industries and create safer working conditions. By adhering to these measures, employers can fulfill their legal obligations while ensuring the safety, health, and comfort of their workforce.