Balancing lives and livelihood: Industry leaders yearn for clear SOP

WITH more economic sectors reopening despite daily COVID-19 cases hovering at the five-digit mark, business leaders and health experts have to find a right balancing act to make things work.

As for industry players such as the Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), it urged the Health Ministry (MOH) to enact clear COVID-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) for businesses to apply in their commercial dealings.

“We need clear SOP on the reopening procedures to avoid another spike in the number of cases.

“For example, Langkawi Island is scheduled to reopen to tourists on Sept 16 but proper guidelines have yet to be issued to the industry players. Any delay may affect the industry’s preparations to receive tourists,” its secretary general Jit Singh told FocusM.

He added that it was laudable that the Government is relaxing rules for the fully vaccinated as it would allow retailers to gain some ground and restrict those not fully vaccinated from commercial premises.

As for MRCA, Jit acknowledged the importance of balancing interests of maintaining their employees’ safety and business needs. With that, they have undertaken several measures to ensure good safety practises are in place.

“Though we don’t have much control over our members’ business operations. MRCA had strongly urged them to adhere strictly to the SOP imposed by the Government.

“Among the ideas we have suggested to them is to only allow fully vaccinated workers to resume work, with strict adherence to the SOP. This also applies to our suppliers and customers.

“We also recommended them to maintain work-from-home policy whenever possible to reduce the number of workers in their offices and retail outlets,” Jit noted.

Subject to the number of infections within certain locality, he said that MRCA had advised their members to take extra precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 outbreak.

“We recommended affected members to probably only allow take-out instead of allowing dine-in for restaurants, limit the number of shoppers at any given time and increase testing frequency for staffers.

“And it would be best for retailers to delay shop opening until all of their personnel are fully vaccinated,” Jit opined.

Commenting on the matter, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) admitted it was a tough situation for all to manage.

“But we understand that protecting workers’ safety is important as without them, no business will be able to function.

“Workers’ safety and health have always been a top priority, especially under the current pandemic situation as businesses resume operations amidst an environment where there is still risk of infections with new variants in the community,” its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai told FocusM.

COVID-19 SOPs are part and parcel of business operations

On that note, Soh said that adherence to SOP has been “ingrained” into business operations as the “new normal”, given the heightened infection threat across the country.

He added that it was already a requirement for companies to appoint a workplace coordinator, who is tasked to decide on who is responsible for COVID-19 assessment, screening and other controls stipulated in the SOPs.

The coordinator is also responsible in ensuring social distancing, segregating work stations by groups, more contactless communication and others.

Plus, Soh stated that employers have put in place additional preventive measures such as targetted testing, based on individual company risk assessment and management.

“This will be an effective approach to trace positive cases and trigger rapid tracing, isolation and treatment protocols to ensure business continuity.

“Companies are also paying attention to their ventilation, air-conditioning and air flow systems, based on the recent guidelines released by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH),” he quipped.

On the Government front, Soh praised the International Trade and Industries Ministry (MITI), Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI), Human Resources Ministry (MOHR) and MOH for being attentive to industry needs.

“The ministries have assisted us on the best practices to adopt to ensure our employees and workplace remain safe.

“Plus, the Government had sped up inoculation for our workers to allow businesses to resume operations and provided the necessary assistance, including financial support, to ensure industries can revive themselves, regaining sustainability and competitiveness,” he concluded. – Sept 11, 2021

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