KUALA LUMPUR | The Ministry of Human Resources (MoHR) today urged employers to let their staff work from home to ensure their health is not adversely affected by the prolonged haze season.

Stating the matter was raised during the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, MoHR said the primary responsibility of employers is to ensure an employee’s safety and health at work.

“It is incumbent upon employers to carry out a proper risk assessment and to implement appropriate measures, including specifying when to restrict work, so as to ensure that risks identified are minimised or mitigated.

“Apart from adhering to the Hazard Identification Risk Assessment and Risk Control Guidelines, employers are also encouraged to execute flexible work policies that may include permitting employees to carry out their tasks from their respective homes should the situation become hazardous to their health and wellbeing,” it said in a statement.

MoHR added that Malaysian Labour Laws did not prohibit employers from further determining place of employment other than which is specified in the contract of employment.

“In certain circumstances, a need may arise that the job task is required to be carried out from a different location other than specified in the contract of employment,” it said.

Such instances included environmental factors such as haze or flooding, whereby an employee could be required to carry out the job task from their homes as a temporary measure until the situation is deemed safe.

This comes as Malay Mail reported earlier today, quoting the Malaysian Trades Union Congress as urging employers to take a more proactive role in ensuring that their workers’ health is not adversely affected.

The umbrella body for unions warned that the health effects from inhaling smog and polluted air are not immediately apparent and may only show up later on, even as there are no reports of serious cases yet befalling workers exposed to the haze.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Youth and Sports became the first ministry to allow its staff to work from home amid haze season.

MoHR said the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) can order affected work to stop in situations where haze poses immediate danger to the safety and health of workers and measures have not been taken to mitigate those risks under the Occupational Safety & Health Act 1994.

Those failing to comply with the Act is liable to a fine not exceeding RM 50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both and to a further fine of RM 500 daily during which the offence continues.

Meanwhile MoHR also advised employers to take the initiative to protect the safety and health of employees against the effects of haze amid an increased risk of symptoms exacerbate by the haze.

Among the suggestions provided were for employers to determine the criteria for stopping outdoor work, identifying types of outdoor work to be reduced in the event of haze, ensuring sufficient stock of disposable N95 respirators and to conduct respirator fit testing for employees requiring to work outdoors.

“Employers should also identify susceptible employees with respiratory or heart problems before instructing them to seek medical treatment.

“At the same time employers should also improve efficiency of air cleaning devices at workplace and implement haze communication system between employer and employees,” it added.