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Source: Asia Pacific Region 2 – Singapore

Sectoral-level standards are being developed for the various premises, starting with higher-risk premises such as preschools, schools, youth facilities, eldercare facilities, hawker centres and coffeeshops

Singapore, 5 October 2020 – The Environmental Public Health (EPH) Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament on 5 October 2020 to mandate baseline environmental sanitation standards for specified premises. The implementation will start with higher-risk premises with high footfall and/or immuno-vulnerable occupants such as preschools, schools, youth facilities [1], and eldercare facilities, followed by hawker centres and coffeeshops. The mandatory requirements will take effect from mid-2021 onwards, and NEA will work with the sectoral leads and key stakeholders to progressively implement the new requirements in phases (refer to ANNEX A for the list of sectoral leads and types of premises).

2          Keeping Singapore Clean involves a multi-pronged approach under the national SG Clean movement, which has three key thrusts: (i) raising cleanliness standards of premises by working with premises owners; (ii) transforming the cleaning industry to meet greater demands; and (iii) inculcating shared responsibility for cleanliness among individuals, as end-users and patrons of premises. The environmental sanitation regime supports the SG Clean movement by clarifying lines of accountability for maintaining clean premises, and setting clear standards expected of premises owners. It builds on existing hygiene and sanitation measures already in place in the various sectors and premises, and goes further by moving towards a co-regulation approach where all stakeholders take accountability and ownership of the environmental sanitation standards within their respective premises.

Mandatory Environmental Sanitation Programme

3          The new regime will require the specified premises to develop and implement an environmental sanitation programme, which includes, but is not limited to, the following baseline standards across sectors:

  • Implement minimum daily cleaning frequencies of toilets, lifts, bin centres and high-touch surfaces.
  • Implement minimum six-monthly thorough periodic cleaning, which includes cleaning of areas that are not easily accessible and not covered by routine cleaning (e.g. out-of-reach window panels, ceiling and wall fans). Thorough periodic cleaning may also require intense cleaning of areas that are already covered under routine cleaning. The frequency of the thorough periodic cleaning may be increased depending on the type of premises.
  • Implement pest management plan to ensure that measures are in place to prevent pest issues.
  • Have a cleaning and disinfection methodology/protocol in place to respond to incident(s) involving bodily discharge (e.g. vomitus).
  • Achieve desired outcome-based indicators after the completion of cleaning operations, e.g. clean premises that is relatively free of stains and environmental waste.
  • Ensure workers are trained and provided with the necessary equipment and cleaning agents to carry out effective cleaning and disinfection.

4          The environmental sanitation programme for the specified premises will be developed and implemented by two key personnel: (1) Premises Managers and (2) Environmental Control Coordinators (ECC) or Environmental Control Officers (ECO). The Premises Managers will need to appoint an ECC/ECO to help develop and oversee the implementation of the mandatory environmental sanitation programme (refer to ANNEX B for more information on the roles and responsibilities of the key personnel).

5          NEA is also developing the environmental control training courses to provide a pipeline of ECCs/ECOs when the environmental sanitation regime takes effect. ECCs/ECOs assist their respective Premises Managers to manage all environment-related matters. Training courses of different competencies will be catered for both ECCs and ECOs. This will provide a career progression pathway for ECCs to become ECOs, as they gain experience and upgrade their skills to take on more responsibilities (refer to ANNEX C for more information on the environmental control training courses).

6          As the environmental sanitation regime impacts various sectors and a large number of premises, NEA is providing sufficient lead-time for the various sectors to get ready for the new requirements before its progressive implementation from mid-2021. An Environmental Sanitation Technical Committee was formed in August last year, comprising experts from the academia, industry, medical field and government agencies to develop a set of baseline cleaning guidelines for routine cleaning and disinfection of non-healthcare premises [2]. As different premises have different needs and requirements, since March this year, NEA has been working with various sectoral leads to translate the baseline cleaning guidelines into sectoral-level standards which are calibrated to each sector’s operational needs and constraints (refer to ANNEX D for a list of quotes from the sectoral leads and industry).

7          NEA will guide Premises Managers and ECCs/ECOs in the initial phase of implementation, as they develop and implement an environmental sanitation programme for their respective premises. NEA will highlight to the key personnel the improvements that need to be made, to ensure that the premises adhere to the baseline environmental sanitation standards and cleaning frequencies.

Building a Future-Ready Workforce

8          With the introduction of the environmental sanitation regime, there will be greater demand for cleaning professionals with specialised cleaning and disinfection knowledge. NEA has been working with partners to put in place job redesign processes, and various programmes to help our cleaning professionals upskill and reskill. Earlier this year, NEA collaborated with Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic to launch new Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses on environmental infection control in non-healthcare facilities. Workforce Singapore (WSG), in partnership with NEA and the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS), has also rolled out a new Place-and-Train Programme for Cleaning Specialists (Disinfection Services) in August 2020, to meet the increased demand for this job role.

9          At the same time, NEA will continue to work with other partner agencies to build up the capability and productivity of the environmental services industry through schemes such as the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which enables eligible companies to adopt proven technologies and solutions that enhance productivity [3]. As of 30 September 2020, NEA has approved 791 PSG applications, with a total grant amount of $15.3 million.

Collective Efforts and Responsibilities

10        The recent Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey (PCSS) results for 2019 released by the Singapore Management University of Singapore highlighted that 93 per cent of the respondents were satisfied with the overall state of cleanliness in 20 public spaces – an increase from the results in 2018 and 2017. However, while most respondents believed that the community should be responsible for the upkeep of their surroundings, there is still substantial reliance on cleaning services. Most respondents also supported the idea of using regulation to help maintain high hygiene standards in shared spaces, such as childcare centres, schools, eldercare facilities and food establishments. Respondents also expected building operators to be made responsible for the public hygiene of their buildings.

11        The experience of COVID-19 reinforces the need for us to put in place good systems to ensure that we can emerge stronger together and remain resilient to public health threats. At the same time, the survey results show that we need to instil a national culture of keeping Singapore clean, where owners and occupiers of premises are proactive in undertaking routine cleaning as well as thorough periodic cleaning, including disinfection. Every individual also has a part to play, in keeping Singapore clean and practising good personal hygiene habits and social norms.

12        With the cooperation of all stakeholders, we can uplift the standard of cleanliness and hygiene, to better safeguard public health and ensure a clean and liveable environment for all residents. In line with the SG Clean campaign, members of the public can contribute by upholding good personal hygiene practices and practising the “7 Habits of Good Public Hygiene”. Working collectively as a community, we can cultivate a greater sense of responsibility for the cleanliness of our shared spaces in Singapore.

[1] Examples of youth facilities include children’s homes, student care centres, etc.

[2] The Environmental Sanitation Technical Committee is chaired by NEA’s Deputy CEO/ Director-General of Public Health, and consists of representatives from various government agencies, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, Singapore General Hospital, and the Environmental Management Association of Singapore.

[3] The PSG for the ES industry applies to companies in the cleaning, waste management and pest management sectors, as well as premises owners. In view of the Resilience Budget, with effect from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, eligible companies can now receive up to 80% of the qualifying cost, capped at $350,000 per company, an enhancement from 50% and cap of $250,000 previously. 

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