Coronavirus or COVID-19 is rapidly increasing across the globe and creating worry for the people. The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised the social distancing is fundamentally a public health measure. This is the only way to reduce the spread of coronavirus and ensure workplace safety.
Where one side, the companies have taken every possible step to allow their employees to work from home another side; some companies engaged in essential requirements are calling their employees to work at the workplace. Especially, industries like food manufacturing, biotech, pharmaceutical, electricity utilities, etc. must maintain operations to support society during this outbreak.
So, if your business is still open for essential services, it is crucial to follow the best practices and safety measures.
Here are the few steps and guidance, every company or organization must follow on “How to Ensure Workplace Safety during the Coronavirus Outbreak”:-
Preventing coronavirus in the workplace
Implement the below-mentioned measures at the workplace, even if the coronavirus has not arrived in your area.
1. Maintain Hygiene: When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, they release droplets of an infected virus. Such droplets fall on nearby surfaces such as a desk, doorknobs, countertops, and objects such as mobile phones, telephone, elevator buttons, keyboards, and biometric machines.
And, if someone touches these things, he/she also got infected with the coronavirus. Hence, it needs to be wiped with disinfectant regularly to keep the workplace clean and hygiene.
It also is important to ensure that cleaning personnel are adequately trained and equipped to disinfect frequently touched areas. They have appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid contracting the coronavirus while cleaning.
2. Ensure the necessary items: Whether you are at home or workplace, the government has mandated the sanitizers, tissues, masks, etc. Ensure that these things are available at your workplace.
Further, for those who are suffering from a runny nose or cough at work, make sure closed bins are available near them. So that, they can hygienically dispose of issues.
3. Encourage frequent hand washing: Regular hand washing is the best way to prevent yourself from getting infected to coronavirus. Even CDC recommends washing hands properly atleast for 20 seconds. It is recommended to encourage for washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
To remind employees that they should wash their hands frequently, place hand-washing signs around the building and especially in public areas such as bathroom and food preparation spaces.
4. Avoid business travelling plans: Any travel during this period should be avoided. Make sure to keep checking the profoundly affected areas and postpone or cancelled the trips. Employers should consider prohibiting or strictly limiting business travel to countries and regions that pose a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
Avoided countries specifically include “Level 3” countries which involve widespread, sustained transmission, and currently include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea etc.
It should also require anyone who travels to a Level 3 country to remain out of the office for a period of at least 14 days following their return, even if an employee has no symptoms of the virus.
Further, employers should ensure that employees understand that if they become sick while travelling or upon their return, they should contact their healthcare provider and their supervisor immediately.
You can still travel to your workplace if you haven’t any coronavirus symptoms. But strictly make sure to follow the social distancing and Ensure Workplace Safety
5. Promote awareness: Prevention from coronavirus is not only limited to applying the safety measures but also promoting awareness to your clients, workers, and other parties.
Employers should often communicate with the workforce so that employees have the information they need to help keep themselves educated and updated about the coronavirus.
Here are a few ways to promote awareness:
- Display posters showing the correct way of washing hands with soap.
- Make sure to fill the sanitizing hand rub dispensers regularly and are available in prominent places around the workplace.
- Make sure that staff, contractors, and customers have access to places where they can wash hands with soap and water.
- Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene
- Brief your employees, contractors and customers about coronavirus symptoms and how to prevent
Apart from these, we recommend that employers should communicate with their employees about the additional resources to learn more about the situation as it develops. For example, they must be aware of
The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”): It is a detailed website that provides up-to-date information about the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization (“WHO”): This website has all useful materials for employers and employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”): It is a US-based website, ensuring safe working conditions for employees and providing guidance, information, training and education for prevention.
Make sure they are away from the rumors and myths; otherwise, it can negatively impact on them and your organization.
6. Prevent large crowds from gathering: Don’t let the employees gather at a single place one time. You can set a limit of employees to discuss their work and allow 6 feet of distance between employees.
7. Encourage sick employees to take leave: If any employee has symptoms of coronavirus or not feeling well, Conduct symptom checks and temperature checks with the help of non-contact thermometers.
When dealing with the coronavirus, employers should be flexible that many different laws and policies regarding the leave may be implicated.
Be with your employees and give them the relief that any leave during this coronavirus outbreak would be count as sick leave. Employers should ensure that their sick-leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Employees should also be aware of the leave guidance.
8. Coronavirus emergency department: For every strategy and planning, the organizations have different departments. Similarly, companies can maintain a Coronavirus emergency department to address all the issues arising from the coronavirus outbreak in the workplace and how to deal with them ethically.
It might include employee health and safety; internal and external messaging; medical and sick leaves; workers’ compensation; short-term disability, monitor the reliable websites for knowing the situations and also aware their employees with the accurate information etc.
Here is an example of how companies are ensuring workplace safety during coronavirus outbreak.
An organization has implemented “zero-touch check-in” with visitors scanning in a QR code from their phone instead of touch.
Company has introduced an “invite first” culture, where the entry of any new person in the organization will be approved through pre-registration.
If the visitors are determined to be high risk (i.e. they have travelled within 14 days or display cold/flu-like symptoms), connect over the video conference modes rather than visiting at the workplace.
In this way, companies should be creative in developing social distancing plans to meet their needs.
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World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidance
The guidance goes on to advise on procedures for employees. It is stressed that a precautionary measure and actions can save your employees and your business.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) hygiene guideline includes the following necessary protective measures:
- Maintain social distancing that is at least 1 meter (3 feet distance) while travelling to the workplace. Also at the workplace.
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose;
- Try to avoid touching any surface/objects or frequently wash after touching
- Wash hands with alcohol-based hand wash or wash with soap and water;
- Practice respiratory hygiene;
- Maintaining good hygiene standards around the workplace
Therefore, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your workplace, make sure that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities required sanitizers, soap, tissues, bin to dispose of tissues, hot water, etc.
Conducting business as usual, with the added layer of maintaining and ensure workplace safety and minimizing the spread of the virus will prove to be a challenge.
It is suggested to the employers to ensure that the managers are regularly informed about the organization’s contingency plan. Also, how to discuss the situation with any concerned employees.
They must ensure where to signpost people to for further advice or support, including employee assistance programs or counseling if they are anxious.