Manufacturers taking steps to break infection chain

JOHOR BARU: Manufacturing associations have welcomed the International Trade and Industry Ministry’s call for local and foreign companies to help reduce Covid-19 infections in order for businesses to keep open.

Malaysian Knitting Manufacturers Association assistant treasurer Seow King Chong said the association continuously reminded its members to educate workers about SOP compliance and limit their movements to check the spread of the virus.

He said it was vital that companies give their full cooperation in the matter as the national economy could not afford to have further setbacks after declining last year due to the pandemic.

“Besides the health threat, if there is an outbreak in a factory, the management will incur losses from mass employee testing, staff quarantine and disrupted production.

“Since the pandemic hit the country last year, production in my own textile manufacturing company dropped by at least 50%.

“The apparel manufacturing sector was just seeing a slight improvement in the market in August and September but slumped again in October due to the spike in Covid-19 cases. We must ensure that the economy remains open to keep jobs safe as well, ” he said.

Seow said manufacturers had undertaken various measures to get their workers to wear face masks correctly, observe physical distancing and proper ways to wash their hands.

“However, employers and supervisors can only monitor their employees, both local and foreign, during working hours and after that is beyond their control.

“Factories can heed the government’s call to assign personnel to manage and coordinate foreign workers staying in hostels but employers cannot be expected to keep the foreign workers locked up after work, ” he said.

Muar Furniture Association (MFA) chairman Steve Ong You Huan said local workers should be equally responsible to help break the chain of infections.

He said the Muar Municipal Council had previously instructed factories not to allow foreign workers to loiter outside the premises.

“Foreign workers typically head straight back to their dormitories after work and rarely travel out of the industrial area, let alone go inter-district or interstate, ” he pointed out.

Ong said the detection of Covid-19 cases in several furniture manufacturers in the Parit Jamil industrial zone earlier this month prompted the MFA to set up its own prevention committee to deal with the situation.

Johor, mainly Muar, produces about 70% of Malaysia’s furniture and demand continues to be strong despite the pandemic.

In George Town, the manufacturing sector pledged to work with the Federal Government to reduce Covid-19 infections.

Free Industrial Zone Penang Companies’ Association committee member Datuk Heng Huck Lee said all its members had adopted the SOP in factories and foreign worker dormitories to break the chain of infection.

“But we need more supply of testing kits and facilities that allow faster checks and results. Some of our members are not able to test their workers as there is a shortage of supply in testing kits, and also the slow response in getting test results, ” he said.

Heng said while tight controls were in place in factories, the authorities should step up enforcement to keep a check on foreign workers when they were not at work.

“The Human Resources Ministry does not allow moving workers to any new location even if the objective is to reduce overcrowding.”

Heng said the electronic and electrical companies would always support the government’s measures as long as the industry was allowed to operate with strict SOP adherence.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang branch chairman Datuk Jimmy Ong said it was vital for the current infections and clusters to be managed effectively.

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