WITH THE sharp fall in Delhi’s air quality prompting the government to put together an emergency plan for the coming week, including shutting schools and asking employees to work from home, there are some lessons to be learned from the model implemented in Singapore three years ago.
In 2013, after Singapore faced a record-breaking haze like the one that has blanketed Delhi, the country’s National Environment Agency and the ministries of education and manpower got together to formulate a set of guidelines, specifically for schools and employers, and that includes providing masks and installing air purifiers.
The guidelines were based on a Pollution Standards Index (PSI), similar to India’s National Air Quality Index, which takes into account six pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3).
100 PSI or more (Good/moderate): Initiate measures to protect against haze.
101-200 (Unhealthy): Measures such as use of mechanical aids, job rotation, indoor rest breaks, adequate hydration.
201-300 (Very unhealthy): Use of mechanical aids, job rotation, indoor rest breaks, adequate hydration. If outdoor work is unavoidable, employer has to provide masks.
300 and above (Hazardous): Job redeployment, reducing intensity and duration of outdoor work, regular breaks or postponement of non-essential jobs. Masks or respirators to be provided for outdoor work.
100 or more (Good/moderate): Normal activities.
101-200 (Unhealthy): Minimise outdoor exertion. Exempt students who are ill or with lung or heart conditions from strenuous outdoor exertion. Students and staff who are ill to be moved to air-conditioned room with air purifier before they are provided medical attention.
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201-300 (Very unhealthy): Minimise outdoor activities. Students who are unwell or with pre-existing lung or heart conditions to exempted from all outdoor activities. Students to be housed in enclosed indoor space with air purifiers. Students and staff who are ill to be moved to air-conditioned room with air purifier before they are provided medical attention.
300 or more (Hazardous): Avoid outdoor activities, scale down lessons. Students who are unwell to be moved to enclosed indoor space with air purifiers. Students and staff who are ill to be moved to air-conditioned room with air purifier before they are provided medical attention.