About 90 percent of Singapore’s average monthly rainfall in April fell over three hours in the western part of the country, causing flash floods in some parts of Singapore on Saturday afternoon (April 17). Although traffic remained passable during the floods in some areas, PUB had been issuing flood risk warnings for more than 20 locations.
Floods like this one in Singapore are among major natural disasters globally. In fact, floods are the most frequent type of natural disaster around the world and occur when an overflow of water submerges land that is usually dry. Like any other type of disasters, floods can cause widespread devastation, resulting in loss of life and damages to personal property and critical public health infrastructure. There are three common types of floods and the most destructive is flash flood as it combines the destructive power of flood with incredible speed.
Office floods can be devastating. In cases where offices are modernised with advanced technology and automation, computers and disks can be significantly damaged due to water overflow. Offices can literally turn into a remnant of a floating duck. This can cost a lot, such as lost client contacts, electric shocks and other complications like stairs slipping down.
In another instance, warehouses, where goods and materials are stored, can also be impacted. Oftentimes, warehouses are built out of scrap metal and leftovers (which quite often does not support flood risk), making them at great risk of mess when flood comes. Warehouse workers are also at great risk. Many warehouse packages have been kept for years and water will easily un-lodge them from the shelves and storage space, unleashing the contents within. Imagine a sharp object floating around in water and the workers are not aware of it, causing unnecessary accidents.
In short, damage to infrastructure due to flooding cannot be shunned away. There will also be long-term impacts, such as disruptions to supplies of clean water, wastewater treatment, electricity, transport, communication, education and healthcare. Loss of livelihoods, reduction in purchasing power and loss of land value in the floodplains can leave organisations economically vulnerable.
Floods can also traumatise victims and their families for long periods of time, resulting in depression and anxiety. The loss of loved ones has deep impacts. Displacement from one’s home, loss of property and disruption to business and social affairs can cause continuing stress. For some individuals, the psychological impacts can be long lasting.
Employers should be ready to deal with staff affected by floods because it might take some time to repair or rebuild thousands of homes and other properties damaged by the disaster. Employers also have an obligation to look after the welfare of their staff during times of crisis, which includes those who were involved in the front-line rescue and recovery work, such as emergency workers.
MOM Singapore under WSH Act mentioned that employers must protect the safety and health of employees or workers working under their direction, as well as persons who might be affected by their work. This includes flood risk and other disaster-related risks.
Meanwhile, employees are required to follow workplace safety and health systems, safe work procedures or safety rules implemented at the workplace. Employees should not engage in any unsafe or negligent act that might endanger themselves and are required to use personal protective equipment provided by employers to ensure their safety. Employees should not tamper with or misuse the equipment mentioned. Failed to comply with the rules mentioned, individuals or corporations will be charged with a fine and/or imprisonment.
All businesses sectors, small to large organisations, should have a risk management plan that contains guidelines on what action needs to be taken. But identifying staff who are affected by floods should always be an employer’s top priority because staff might need time to deal with personal issues, including their psychical and psychological state.
While employers work on office damage, they should also pay attention and offer help to flood victims, for example, allowing coworkers to volunteer and allocating extra payments or fundraising for them. Employers can also give psychological or emotional support to their staff, such as:
As for properties, employers can consider taking flood insurance to minimise the budget needed to cover damage to buildings and contents caused by floods. Commonly, flood insurances will cover losses resulting from water overflowing rivers or streams, heavy or prolonged rain, storm surge, snowmelt, blocked storm drainage systems, and other similar causes.