Singapore

Firms here protecting workers from haze

NEA forecasts air quality to remain between 'moderate' and 'unhealthy' range

As Singapore braces itself for another day of unhealthy air quality today for some parts of the country, companies with employees working outdoors are taking measures to protect their staff.

Going by forecasts the National Environment Agency (NEA) issued yesterday evening, air quality in the next 24 hours could be similar to that for most of yesterday.

The 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings are expected to remain in the normal band, while the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is forecast to be between the high end of the "moderate" range and the low end of the "unhealthy" range.

But if haze from the surrounding region is blown in, the 1-hour PM2.5 reading could enter the elevated band.

Air quality worsened on Wednesday and early yesterday but became better later, with the NEA saying that this was due to stronger winds blowing from the south-east that helped to disperse the haze away from Singapore.

By 9pm, the 1-hour PM2.5 reading was 18-28, within the normal band, and the 24-hour PSI reading was 88-98, in the "moderate" range.

Some firms with staff working outdoors are not taking chances.

The Lo & Behold Group said its indoor and outdoor dining outlets have been equipped with N95 masks for staff and customers.

If air quality reaches unhealthy levels, certain outdoor sections may close or have operating hours cut.

At Sentosa, N95 face masks and eye drops have been made available to all staff.

A Sentosa Development Corporation spokesman said health advisories based on the 24-hour PSI will be displayed at key outdoor locations should the haze reach unhealthy levels and visitors who feel unwell can approach Sentosa rangers or service ambassadors for assistance.

ADVISORY

The Singapore Contractors Association said it has sent out a haze advisory to its 3,200 members advising all construction firms to continually monitor the haze condition and abide by Ministry of Manpower guidelines.

These include reducing outdoor work when necessary and rotating workers' outdoor shifts to prevent prolonged exposure to the haze.

Local security firms and cleaning companies said they have also distributed masks to their workers and issued advisories to employees to take precautions against the haze situation.

Security firm Apro Asian Protection said that N95 masks were given to all 1,300 employees since last Wednesday.

If the 24-hour PSI reading enters the "hazardous" level, there are plans to cancel external patrol duties and for officers to remain indoors unless attending to vehicle or human traffic.

Meanwhile, schools are turning on air purifiers and teachers are to look out for students with pre-existing lung or heart conditions and ensure they are moved to enclosed indoor spaces such as the school library, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said.

As national exams start - the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) for listening comprehension takes place today - schools have made arrangements for all candidates to take their papers in enclosed spaces, such as classrooms or halls, the ministry told The Straits Times.

It explained that schools are guided to turn on the air purifiers when the air quality hits the "very unhealthy" range.

The MOE also said affected exam papers will be rescheduled and the exam period extended, if school closures coincide with national examinations like the PSLE.

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES

Air purifiers fly off the shelves as haze worsens

Air purifiers have been flying off the shelves as members of the public try to fight the worsening haze over the last few days.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, a Courts spokesman said air purifier sales increased "by several times" over the last week, while Audio House said sales have "tripled especially over the past few days".

The FairPrice Xtra outlet at Nex has created a Beat The Haze section featuring items such as eye wash, N95 masks, cough syrup and cooling water.

A 24-year-old factory worker at the FairPrice outlet, who wanted to be known only as Alex, said he has become more concerned about his health.

BREATHLESS

"It (the haze) affects my eyesight. I feel breathless and my throat is always itchy so I try to wear a mask," he said.

"Even my mother is going out to buy an air purifier because of the haze."

Responding to queries, a Harvey Norman spokesman said it has seen a "double-digit growth in the sale of air purifiers since the haze started".

Madam Fauziah Amin, a 34-year-old store manager at Nex, owns an air purifier.

The mother of two - one child is in Primary 1 and the other is in kindergarten - has started limiting family outings and ordering food in instead of going out.

"So far for me, the haze has been okay since I work indoors, but I am so worried for my kids who are having breathing difficulties and have been coughing since the haze started," she said.

Madam Tricia Chong, a 40-year-old housewife at Nex, who was wearing a mask, is worried for her 16-year-old daughter, who is in the midst of her N levels.

She has an air purifier at home and said: "When we are at home, we try to leave the fan on all the time."

MEDICAL & HEALTH