In March of 2020, with novel coronavirus latching its claws across the globe, many businesses, workplaces, restaurants and schools were shut down to abstain the virus from spreading like wildfire. Millions of people around the world are staying home and practicing social distancing in order to curb the virus. But not everyone out there has the luxury to protect themselves against this virus by staying safe at their homes. Health care workers, medical shops, grocery shops, law enforcing personals and other public workers have to report on duty. Keeping them safe and providing those with maximum protection must be given utmost attention as they truly deserve that.
As this virus is novel, the information about it is very limited; in fact we are learning more about it with each case. With the attempt to flatten the curve, as the cases and death rate is still on the rise, we must follow the guidelines set by WHO (World Health Organisation). Fueling of misleading and deceptive information can create bedlam and lead people to act impulsively. Uncertainty causes confusion and that leads to chaos, which must be avoided at all cost as that would only deteriorate the situation further.
To effectively combat this pandemic and also to keep the employees safe from detrimental emotions, employers must have an open discussion about their reservations. The potential impact on their lives work and health wise, how can they protect themselves and the people around them and work in a safe and efficient environment. The responsibility lies on the employers to plan for this pandemic and make sure their employees have the best conditions to work in as they are the true warriors. They must address specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, ways of transmission and other ways this virus can contact.
Failing in planning proficiently can cause a cascade of failures as the workers try to deal with the challenges of the virus with insufficient resources and support from the establishments. Some workplaces and offices that were closed down during the lockdown are looking to reopen and face a new set of challenges. While owners, managers and even the employees want to get back to their normal life, with normal routine and normal working hours (seriously working at home has been the most daunting experience ever) the new guidelines and SOPs should be followed religiously to have a safe, stable and continuous run.
Occupational health and safety advisors must work in cooperation with the managers and carry out inspections that can competently assess the risk a particular workplace can have regarding the spread of the virus. Work on the ways to curb the virus, plan protective and preventive measures that keep that particular work environment safe and virus free, is the only way to reopen businesses in an innocuous way. Workplaces or jobs that have little to no contact with the general public or others are at a relatively low risk of exposure from the virus. On the other hand, jobs that ask for frequent contact with the general public, have high foot traffic at the workplace and need to work with the other employees have a higher risk of contracting the virus. The decisions to reopen, revise timings or close should be done after a detailed inspection, keeping all the aspects under consideration.
Vital measures that Must Be Taken by ALL Workplace to Protect against COVID-19
The first and foremost is the awareness that must be engraved in the employees. Hold workshops and awareness campaigns that instill the preventive measure in the minds of the workers, in order to get the desired results. Workplaces and offices must also not skim or spare any expense in providing resources that make the prevention easy. Get sanitising tunnels installed at the entrances, frequents signs that remind and encourage people, hand sanitisers should be readily available and masks must be supplied to all employees.
As we most certainly know that Coronavirus attacks our respiratory track and is highly contagious. It spreads from person to person through the droplets of cough, sneeze or even while talking. The droplets can stay active on a variety of surfaces and that too up to days. So the best bet against this virus is to frequently wash hands. Employees must be encouraged and reminded frequently about washing hands. Employers can run drills, have alarms set or even an announcement to wash hands after every hour can be very effective. Signs must be installed at public places like washrooms and cafeterias to remind people to wash hands. Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, lathering all nooks and crannies of the hands can very efficiently keep the virus at bay.
Another way to proficiently keep the workplace virus-free, a strict, customary and standard cleaning and disinfecting procedure must be activated. All the surfaces that are frequently touched like stair railings, door knobs and handles, water dispenser, cafeteria, bathrooms, meeting rooms, countertops etc must be disinfected with a strong alcohol cleaner. Disinfecting wipes must also be provided to all employees to clean their own workstation before leaving so viruses cannot accumulate in the premises.
Wearing masks must be made mandatory on the work premises at all times. It must also be secured on the mouth and nose and preferably an N-95 mask that has multiple layers for an optimal protection. Masks mustn’t be placed under the nose, on the chin, hanging from one ear or removed entirely after one hour into the job. The basic etiquettes of covering a sneeze and cough must also be reminded through signs and symbols. All these can be done by strict monitoring and reinforcement, otherwise workers tend to get lost in their routine to completely bypass all the preventive measures.
Virus can spread when people are within 6 meters reach of one another. Employers have to take the difficult and very crucial decision to choose the employees that must be called at the workplace and rest could just do their work from home. The work hours can be made more flexible and less daunting. The 1-meter-apart signs must be placed in areas where queues can form. The places where meetings and gatherings have to be held, it must be cleaned, disinfected and sitting should be done at a safe distance. Workers must also be discouraged to share their things like phones, pens, lunch and desks with other co-workers to curtail the virus flow.
At the entrance of the premises, a fever check point should be installed. Taking the fever readings daily will be very beneficial for the workplace and the workers. Random tests of the employees will keep them on edge and they will take all this seriously. The repercussions of illness must be cleared to them. Any employee having any symptoms must be abstained from entering the area. They should be sent home and quarantined till there is no symptom of the acute respiratory illness. The fever and other signs must be gone for at least five days without any fever reducing medication.
Free tests of the employees can also do wonders for a virus-free workplace. The employers should be flexible in their policies and empathetic in these difficult and unreliable times. Sick people need to stay at home. grant leaves for workers that have the need, and remain humane in your policies.
Another job for the employers is to manage is the creation and management policies, crafted to respect the concerns of the workers about pay, leave, safety and other questions that arise during these peculiar times. Collaborate with insurance companies that can come up with good medical care service deals for employees in case of contracting the virus. These should be extended to the family members as well.
COVID-19 work health and safety resources using the below links:
Workers must cooperate with their representatives and employers in order to build a safe work environment. Neglecting the prevention measures or not abiding by the rules is not acceptable as you are not only risking yourself but the other around you. Hiding symptoms and coming to the workplace is a big violation, workers must report to the employers immediately. International Labor Standards on the rights of workers and employers must be respected.
Special protection and leverages should be granted to older employees as they are the ones at the most risk from this virus. There shouldn’t be any stigma associated with the virus neither any discrimination done by the employers. Workers must be given access information and protection and supported in their vulnerable times. If they feel uncomfortable for any work assignment they can remove themselves from that task but with a reasonable justification.
In order to protect ourselves and the people around us we must follow the 4 layered protections essential for mitigating Coronavirus. Wearing a mask, observing social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting frequently and hand washing can help stop the spread of the virus. Employee well-being and resilience is an asset of any firm and to protect that they should eat healthy, workout, have a good 8 hour sleep, manage stress and take a break to revitalise and rejuvenate.