What was your work like before COVID-19?
I worked in the MOM’s Major Hazards Department in the Occupational Safety and Health Division. My work focused on regulatory oversight of Major Hazard Installations and was mostly desk-bound.
What happened when the COVID-19 situation in the workers’ dormitories evolved?
When safe distancing measures were implemented due to COVID-19, I was first roped in to man the operations command of MOM’s safe distancing enforcement in workplaces.
As the COVID-19 situation at workers’ dormitories evolved, I was re-deployed to one of the dormitories as a Forward Assurance and Support Team (FAST) member in early April.
As part of the FAST team, I assisted employers and dormitory residents with employment issues, as well as established systems for resident management and food distribution. These were all new areas of work for me.
Stationed at the dormitory, weekdays and weekends merged into a blur. I am now used to foggy face shields, powdery palms from glove wear, and marks on my face made by wearing masks for long periods.
What has been challenging or memorable?
I had never been to a dorm till my deployment, and I had never been so vexed over food.
Managing the needs of thousands of residents was a learning curve – we had to ensure timely distribution of large quantities of food across all dormitory blocks three times a day. Each catered meal had to be consumed within a four-hour time limit for food safety reasons.
Dormitory staff, migrant worker ambassadors and the FAST team worked closely with caterers to make sure that residents had ample time to consume their meals, after considering delivery, unloading and distribution times.
Tents had to be set up to shelter the food distribution points from weather elements.
Over time I learnt more about their dietary preferences and worked with caterers to improve food choices. We are now in the midst of Ramadan, so there is an additional pre-dawn meal service for Muslim residents.
Beyond food issues, residents’ well-being is also key. Whenever they have concerns, we hear them out and work with them to resolve it. Language is sometimes a barrier, but I gradually learnt some of their lingo to better communicate with them.
As a FAST member, I work with colleagues from other agencies, dormitory staff as well as food caterers to ensure that residents’ needs are well taken care of.
We may have come from different walks of life and were doing different jobs before this, but in the face of COVID-19, we work together towards a common goal – ensure the well-being of our migrant workers, flatten the curve and stop the spread.
What does your family think about what you are doing?
As a FAST member at the frontline, I am fully aware that there are some risks and this is a call of duty for my country.
My family is very supportive, and my children are curious about my work at the dormitory. They also learn more about the work of FAST teams from the news.
COVID-19 has changed daily life in Singapore, and I hope the current situation comes to a good end soon.
ABOUT FAST TEAMS
Forward Assurance and Support Teams, or "FAST" teams, comprise officers from the Ministry of Manpower, Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Police Force. More than 170 FAST teams have been deployed. This includes 43 teams stationed at all purpose-built dormitories, and 127 mobile FAST teams providing coverage to factory converted dormitories, construction temporary quarters and private residential premises.
The FAST personnel look into all aspects of the workers’ well-being, which is a top priority. This ranges from availability of food and maintenance of hygiene to facilitating their medical care and remittance needs.