S’pore employers: earthquakes can happen anywhere, anytime

Singaporeans were identified as being among the casualties of the Sabah earthquake, serving as a timely reminder to employers to ensure their emergency preparedness plans are up to date.

S’pore employers: earthquakes can happen anywhere, anytime
ay has been declared a Day of National Remembrance in Singapore, to honour those victims of the Sabah earthquake.

Twenty-nine Singaporean and international students and eight teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School were climbing on Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu as part of a school excursion when Friday’s 6.0 magnitude earthquake triggered huge landslides.

Singaporean foreign minister K Shanmugam has confirmed the bodies of six Singapore students, aged 12 and 13, have been identified.

State flags on all government building will fly at half-mast today, with one minute of silence at the beginning of the day at all SEA Games venues.

"We hope that this collective expression of sympathy and support from all Singaporeans will give solace and comfort to the families and loved ones of the victims," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.

As an example of heroic employees, some of the school’s teachers reportedly used themselves as shields to protect the children from being hurt by the landslides.

The horrific incident serves as a timely reminder to employers to ensure their emergency preparedness plans are in place and up-to-date.

According to Gary Anderson, managing director of business and risk consulting firm, Protiviti, HR is critical to an effective emergency response plan.

“[HR]’s role is to ensure staff have regular, practical and up-to-date training so they understand what to do and what to expect when a crisis strikes,” he said.

“All relevant staff must understand the hazards they potentially face, the steps they should take and who to contact within the organisation for information.”

The Singapore government has a website – Emergency 101 – which provides guidelines on ways to prepared for natural disasters and other crises.

Another aspect employers need to be aware of is the psychological trauma and emotional distress following a crisis.

“During crises, they could have strong emotions of fear and anxiety as well as concerns about their job security,” guidelines from the Ministry of Manpower said.

“They could also experience low morale, which could lead to lower productivity.”
Organisations should therefore have ready and effective preparedness plans to mitigate the adverse impact of major international/local events or situations on the harmonious working relations among employees, and on their emotional well-being, MOM said.

“Your organisation should have plans that support and help employees deal with the situations can help maintain resilience during difficult times, minimise disruptions to business operations and facilitate quicker resumption to normal operations.

“When developing these plans, a cross-sectional Crisis Response Team that involves personnel across management and operational functions can help ensure that such plans are well conceived, up-to-date and could be well executed when required.” 

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