Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
The covid-19 spread hasn’t totally disappeared, the vaccine is still in the testing phase. But people started working way before the lockdown ended, some were working from home, some from the office while taking the required precautions but now that it’s been announced that the vaccine will soon be given to people, more and more people have started working at their offices. As the pandemic is not over, there are a few dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind while working.
As offices gradually return to work in India, rules have been issued to help reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Offices are mandatorily required to have hand sanitization stations and allow only asymptomatic workers to return. However, this alone will not be enough to eliminate the threat of the novel coronavirus. There is still a chance that the virus can be transmitted among workers who may seem asymptomatic if control measures are not adopted at the workplace.
Screen employees’ health before they return
Before your employees return to work, ensure that they are healthy by screening them. This is to ascertain that the workplace is at no risk of COVID-19 transmission.
You can screen your employees in a few easy steps as listed below:
- You can send out digital forms that need to be filled out by employees. Employees should respond to these forms at least three days before they resume working from the office.
- The form must contain questions regarding their general health and questions related to COVID-19. Firstly, they must confirm that they do not reside in a containment zone.
- Additionally, employees should confirm that they are not suspected or have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last fortnight.
- Similarly, within the said period, they have not been in close contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 individual.
- If the individuals themselves were suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19, they must guarantee that they have completed the mandatory period of self-isolation or treatment.
Conduct a workplace risk assessment
Now that you are confident that your returning employees are free from the risk of COVID-19, you can proceed to carry out a workplace risk assessment. The risk assessment should be carried out to ensure that the workplace is safe and at minimal risk of future contamination. Along with the person-to-person transmission, there is also a high risk of transmission through shared surfaces such as door handles, telephones, and sanitation equipment, among others at the workplace. All these factors should also be considered during the risk assessment. As an additional measure, you should have the workplace cleaned and sanitised, before resuming work.
- Enforce total avoidance of personal contact: There should be a minimum distance of one metre between two individuals, as per the guidelines of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- Make personal protection equipment mandatory: Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks should be made mandatory for employees within, as well as outside the work premises. Ensure that they carry a hand sanitizer along with them during their commute and use it when required.
- Provide COVID-19 safety training to employees: COVID-19 safety training should include practices regarding workplace cleanliness, waste management, hand hygiene, and instructions on using PPE.
Some basic dos and don’ts
- Wash your hands regularly with soap, especially if you have been in a public place. Experts suggest that one should spend at least 20 seconds — or the time it takes to sing Happy birthday twice — to clean the back of one’s hands, the space between one’s fingers and underneath the fingernails.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands.
- Wear a specialized face mask — the N95 respirators are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.
- Cover your cough with disposable tissues and discard them immediately after use.
- Seek medical advice if you are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory diseases — such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.
What not do
- Avoid sharing utensils, water bottles, and personal hygiene items like towels.
- Keep your non-essential travel plans to the minimum and avoid attending large public events.
- Refrain from spreading unscientific misinformation about possible ways to prevent or treat coronavirus.
- Do not stockpile disposable face masks. Such masks need to be worn only by those who are suspected to have an infection.
- Stay away from people who are sick or show symptoms such as coughing or fever.