Still clueless about SOP

Workers in full protective attire such as double masks and face shield with the window open for ventilation at an office in Prai but not many SMEs are enforcing such precautions. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

THERE is a lack of awareness among small and medium enterprises (SME) in strengthening the standard operating procedure (SOP) against Covid-19 spread within the workplace.

In a two-week survey conducted by the Small And Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta), only 27.3% and 19.3% of the respondents demanded their employees to wear double face masks and face shields respectively.

“The situation is alarming, as SMEs lack awareness that double face masks cum face shields could increase 96% protection against the Delta variant of Covid-19, as suggested by Health director- general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah,” said Samenta south chairman Louis Ooi in a recent statement.

A total of 176 SMEs took part in the survey, which also revealed that 39.8% of the employers did conduct their own swab tests on employees using self-test kits.

Ooi said SMEs had also been financially burdened by the average spending of RM90.17 per employee to adhere to the existing SOP.

“On average, mid-sized and small-sized SMEs spend RM20,550 and RM1,784 monthly respectively to adhere to SOP.

“Data from the survey translated to RM90.17 spent monthly per employee on SOP compliance, or 7.5% of the RM1,200 minimum wage,” he said.

Scientists working within an enclosed laboratory while practising physical distancing.Scientists working within an enclosed laboratory while practising physical distancing.

According to SME Corporation Malaysia (SMECorp), medium-sized SMEs are defined as those with at least 30 employees in the services sector and above 75 employees in the manufacturing sector.

Small-sized SMEs are with between five and 30 employees in the services sector and five to 75 employees in the manufacturing sector.

Samenta has 1,5000 members nationwide.

Among its other findings from the survey was that 84.1% of the SMEs have obtained approval from the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) to operate during the movement control order (MCO).

Of the figure, 53.4% of SMEs had received spot checks, with 10.2% of them compounded between RM150 and RM14,000 for various violations.

Mid-sized SMEs that were compounded said they tended to spend more on SOP compliance, which was an additional 24% more compared to the industry average.

About two-thirds of the survey respondents are small-sized SMEs in various industries such as services (35.2%), manufacturing (31.8%), trading or distribution (18.1%), with the rest in construction, mining, agriculture, science and technology and IT.

Workers in full protective attire such as double face masks and face shield.Workers in full protective attire such as double face masks and face shield.

To facilitate SOP compliance, Ooi urged the relevant authorities to provide clearer and simpler guidelines as standard reference across the industry.

“This is important for all industries to understand the do’s and don’ts stipulated by the Government.

“As these expenses for SOP compliance are significant, we hope the government will form subsidies such as fixing ceiling price for RTK-Ag and RT-PCR tests at RM40 and RM120 respectively.

“The Health Ministry should look into subsidising costs of sampling by medical professionals and laboratory tests.

“Price of self-test kits should also be lowered and regulated by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry with a ceiling price of below RM10 per test,” he said.

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