Malaysia today begins its “Transition to Endemic” phase for COVID-19. As mentioned in an earlier update (Malaysia’s updated workplace COVID SOPs from 1 April 2022: Capacity and operating hour limits abolished), there will be only one Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) applicable nationwide for this new phase.
- Guidelines for indoor work spaces.
- Guidelines for outdoor work areas.
- Guidelines for religious activities, weddings, and funerals.
- Guidelines for hotel and guest accommodations.
- Guidelines for events, gatherings, entertainment, and tourist attractions.
- Guidelines for sports, recreational, and leisure activities and facilities.
- Guidelines for education and childcare.
- Guidelines for retail activities, food and beverage.
- Guidelines for transport and movement.
SOPs are enforced safety measures, with non-compliance punishable by fines. Meanwhile, the Guidelines serve to illustrate and expand on the requirements in the SOP, and compliance is only encouraged.
This article summarises some of the relevant SOPs and recommended best practices for workplaces generally from 1 April 2022. Business owners/operators and employers should still refer to the SOP document and any applicable guidelines for a comprehensive understanding of the requirements.
The previous operating hour limits for business premises are abolished. Businesses will be permitted to operate based on the conditions stated in their relevant operating licence or permit.
Premises entry check and registration
Employers must provide the MySejahtera QR code for registration of entry to the premises, and — (a) ensure employees and individuals use the MySejahtera app to scan the QR code when entering the premises; and (b) ensure that only employees and individuals with a ‘low risk’ MySejahtera status are allowed to enter the premises.
Employers must ensure employees and individuals wear a face mask at all times on the premises. The use of face masks is exempted in individual/private workspaces, while eating and drinking, and for individuals with breathing difficulties (with a medical report certified by a registered medical practitioner).
Employers must monitor and ensure employees and individuals maintain a physical distance of at least one metre from each other where possible on the premises.
Employers must ensure that the premises, particular indoor spaces, have good ventilation and ventilation systems based on the Guidance Note on Ventilation And Indoor Air Quality for Non-Residential Setting During COVID-19 Pandemic issued by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health.
Employers must provide facilities to wash hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser.
Cleaning of premises
Employers must arrange frequent and scheduled cleaning at least once a day, especially at common areas or equipment or surfaces which are frequently touched. A record must be kept of the cleaning process for inspection.
Employers must abide by the COVID-19 testing requirements in the National Testing Strategy (NTS) for employees and individuals.
Management of symptomatic individuals, confirmed COVID-19 cases, and close contacts
Employers must —
- implement health and safety protocol and manage symptomatic individuals, confirmed COVID-19 cases, and close contacts based on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Management Guidelines for Workplaces (Annex 25);
- arrange cleaning and disinfection process based on the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public Spaces (Annex 36);
- bear the testing costs for employees who are symptomatic while on the premises, and the cleaning and disinfection costs;
- bear the cost of isolating COVID-19 cases and close contacts;
- accept a digital home surveillance order (HSO) for employees who are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases as proof of the employee undergoing isolation or quarantine; and
- immediately report the detection of a COVID-19 cluster on the premises to the nearest District Health Office.
Recommended best practices for indoor workspaces
In addition to the above SOPs, these are some of the recommended best practices from the Guidelines for Indoor Work Spaces:
- Physical distancing: Ensure physical distancing of at least 1 metre where possible. Limit face-to-face social interactions between individuals from different households (for example, implementing working hours by shifts, and staggered breaks). Avoid physical greetings such as shaking hands. Working from home is recommended, and individuals who are symptomatic or COVID-19 positive or under a home surveillance order (HSO) are not allowed to be in the workplace.
- Ventilation in closed air-conditioned spaces: Ensure that the ventilation system is functioning properly. Set the air-conditioning to “fresh air” and avoid recirculation. Turn on the air-conditioner and fan to expel indoor air before working hours. Face the fan towards a door or window to increase the outgoing airflow. Ensure ventilation/extractor fans are always on during working hours.
- Ventilation in premises with natural airflow: Open doors and windows as often as possible. Face the fan towards a door or window to increase the outgoing airflow. Ensure ventilation/extractor fans are always on during working hours.
- Additional recommendations for measuring and increasing air quality: Use high-quality air filters to filter airborne viruses and dust. Monitor the carbon dioxide levels with an indoor air quality monitor (a reading of 1,000ppm indicates that the ventilation is insufficient).
- Cleaning and disinfection: Disinfection is only required if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on the premises. Regular scheduled cleaning at least once a day, using soap/detergent and water. Disinfection with liquid bleach or disinfectant containing at least 70% alcohol if required.
- Staggered working hours and rest breaks: Employers are encouraged to implement staggered work start times, which will allow employees to avoid crowds, particularly on public transport. Employers are also encouraged to implement staggered break/lunch times to limit cross-interactions between different groups of employees.