Safeguarding Workers and Business Continuity in the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a force of disruption on businesses all over the world. Even providers of essential services such as ST Engineering Marine have not been spared, as the adoption of stricter regulations, safe distancing rules and other precautionary measures gave rise to new work procedures and other inefficiencies in service delivery.

The Singapore government’s foreign worker dormitory lockdown during the CB period affected some 1,200 of our yard operators who are migrant workers. In addition, we have had to adjust various parts of our operation, often at short notice, to respond to the introduction of new measures as the situation developed. We were among the earliest in the shipbuilding sector to put in place safe distancing practices, including split-team arrangements and work-from-home measures, from the onset of the pandemic.

Safeguarding our entire workforce, which comprises both regular employees and contract-service workers, remains our key priority. To mitigate the spread of the virus in the workplace, we went beyond regular temperature checks to enforce a series of enhanced precautionary practices. To protect those who were well, we distributed face masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers, stepped-up on area cleaning and surface disinfection, and imposed movement restrictions to reduce inter-mixing. 

Contact tracing was conducted internally to identify co-workers who have had close contact with confirmed cases. We isolated all staff who were symptomatic, and asked those who were exposed to an infected case for less than 30 minutes at more than two metres to stay home for 14 days. We also required all staff and visitors to perform a mandatory check-in/check-out via the government’s SafeEntry System to further support contact tracing efforts.

All quarantined staff, as well as those on stay-home notice and leave of absence, continued to receive their salaries on time. We also stood in solidarity with our migrant workers who were confined to their dormitories. Efforts included delivering daily meals and essentials to these workers, as well as providing onsite medical support to ensure their health and wellbeing. Arrangements were also made for the distribution of goodie bags containing fruits, pickles, biscuits, snacks, nuts and milk, to comfort our colleagues. In conjunction with Vesak Day, we put together a video clip featuring words of encouragement by the management team to cheer our migrant colleagues. The goal was to allay their fears or frustration concerning the security of their jobs, and to stay connected with them throughout the challenging period.

Over and above these gestures, we rendered support and assistance through the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to ensure that the workers’ daily needs were met. We cooperated with the Forward Assurance and Support Team formed by the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force and MOM to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the foreign worker dormitories.

When Singapore exited the CB on 1 June 2020, we sought to help our returning migrant workers forge a deeper sense of belonging with the company. To this end, personalised ST Engineering EZ-Link cards with motivational messages were designed and distributed to the workers. After a long and gruelling separation, we are glad to finally welcome back the majority of our workers at the end of August 2020 while we remain diligent with all the necessary safety measures. 

Said Mr Mahbubur, from EHS Benoi Yard, “I am very happy to return to work. I want to say thank you to ST Engineering Marine, and especially to my supervisor, Mr Lim Sin Yen, who checks up on me every week to make sure that I am feeling okay. I have been looking forward to get back to work. I want to show my appreciation to my company and the customers!”