Lockdown 4.0 was in effect from 18.05.2020 till 31.05.2020. It also brought relaxations in working but with a challenge to curb the spread of COVID – 19.
The Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs issued Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) has laid down fresh guidelines to govern the Country’s functioning.
It becomes necessary to address the situation with regard to the sitting pattern in any workplace and the practice of social distancing norms as the spread of the virus is still ongoing.
Considering the closed atmosphere in offices, it is easy for the disease to spread amongst the employees.
These guidelines are issued to prevent importation of infection and respond timely when a suspected case of COVID – 19 is detected in the workplace premises.
It enshrines for heads:
(i) Basic preventive measures to be followed at all times
(ii) Measures specific to offices
(iii) Measures to be taken on occurrences of case(s)
(iv) Disinfection procedures to be implemented in case of occurrence of suspected/confirmed case
We have covered some frequently asked questions hereunder to solve queries about the said preventive measures.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES FOR WORKPLACES
1. What are the measures to be observed by all employers, employees, visitors, etc. in order to reduce the risk of infection?
Answer: The measures required to be followed by all for safety of all the people with the workplace premises are:
These measures are important to prevent the spread and maintain health & safety of everyone at workplace.
2. What measures have been issued for offices to be followed under the Guidelines?
Answer: Any staff suffering from flu-like illness should not attend office and also seek help from the local health authorities.
If such person is a suspect or diagnosed with the disease then, it is mandatory for such person to inform the office authorities immediately.
Furthermore, any staff if residing in containment zones shall be allowed to work from home..
3. What measures have been advised for the Government employees working under Ministries and Departments?
Answer: The Ministry also issued a list of DOs and DON’Ts for the employees to adhere to strictly.
These measures are made applicable to all the employers and employees working in a public establishment or workplace.
The preventive measures are as under:
– Installing thermal scanners, if feasible. Mandatory placing of hand sanitizers at the entry. Employees having flu-like symptoms to take proper treatment and quarantine.
– Discourage visitors in office complex and suspend issue of routine visitor/temporary passes. Visitors having appropriate permission should only be allowed after screening.
– Meetings are encouraged to be carried out via video conferencing and minimize/reschedule meetings with large number of people.
– Avoid non-essential official travel.
– Encourage correspondence on official emails and avoid sending and receiving physical copies.
– Facilitate delivery and receipt of mail at the entry point of the office itself.
– Closing all gyms, recreation centres, creches, etc in the workplace.
– Proper cleaning and frequent sanitization of workplace and frequently touched surfaces.
– Ensure regular supply of hand sanitizers, soap and running water in washrooms.
– Self-monitoring by employees and inform employers if feeling unwell.
– Sanctioning leaves whenever a request is made for self-quarantine of any employee for precaution.
– Advise employees who are at higher risk like older employees, pregnant employees, etc. to take extra precautions.
4. What are the DOs and DON’Ts enlisted by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions vide Order dated 18.05.2020?
Answer: Under the Order dated 18.05.2020, the Annexure to the Order mentions a list of DOs and DON’Ts to be followed by all the employees within a private workplace or a Government office.
– Maintain personal hygiene and physical distancing.
– Frequent handwashing even though they are visibly clean. Use of alcohol based hand rub.
– Follow Coughing etiquettes.
– Throw used tissues in closed bins.
– Safe distance from persons while interacting.
– No coughing directly on your palm.
– Regular temperatures and check respiratory symptoms.
– See a doctor if you are unwell.
– In case of any symptoms showing contact the helpline number provided by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
– Shake hands.
– Close contact with anyone, if you are experiencing cough or fever.
– Touching eyes, nose and mouth.
– Sneezing or coughing directly in your palms.
– Spitting in public.
– Travelling unnecessarily.
– Participating in large gatherings.
– Visiting gyms, clubs, crowded places, etc.
– Spreading rumours or panic.
5. Where can an employee report any symptoms of fever or flu?
Answer: Any person who starts to feel sick, fever, flu-like symptoms, can contact the State helpline number or the 24×7 helpline number of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare at 011-23978046.
6. What measures are to be taken if any of the employees show symptoms of COVID – 19?
Answer: Even after practicing social distancing, keeping the premises sanitized there still exists a possibility that cases of employees suffering from COVID – 19 can arise. Therefore, during such period it is necessary to;
– Place the ill person in a separate room and provide a mask/cover till doctor examination.
– Report the central/state health authorities or helpline numbers.
– Risk assessment to be undertaken by public health authority and advice regarding the management of case, contacts and the need for disinfection.
– If any employees suspects any mild symptoms it is important for him/her to follow the Revised Guidelines for Home Isolation of very mild/pre-symptomatic COVID–19 cases issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on 10th May, 2020.
– If the suspect case is detected to be ranging from moderate to severe, the Guidance document on appropriate management of suspect/confirmed cases of COVID – 19 issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare shall be followed.
– Rapid response team shall be requisitioned and undertake listing of contacts.
– A necessary action for contact tracing and disinfection of work place to be started after the employee has tested positive.
7. Which individuals shall be considered to be contacts of an infected person?
Answer: Anyone who was in contact with the infected person between 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and date of isolation are considered to be contacts.
8. Which contacts shall be considered as high-risk contacts?
Answer: Any person who was directly coughed at by the infected persons or came in contact with body fluids of the patient, lives in the same household, physical contact without PPE, touched or cleaned clothes/dishes of the patient, came in close proximity, travelled together for more than 6 hours.
9. What steps to be taken by the employees or persons who came in close contact with the employee who tested positive for COVID – 19?
Answer: For individuals exposed directly or highly to the employee who tested positive for COVID – 19 is required to be quarantined for 14 days and has to follow the guidelines of Home Quarantine issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
10. Who is considered as a low-risk contact?
Answer: The person who shared the same room or space but not having high risk exposure to the infected person and/or travelled in the same mode of transport but not having high risk exposure.
11. What steps are to be taken by the employees or persons who came in less contact with the employee who tested positive for COVID – 19?
Answer: For employees who were less exposed to the employee, who tested positive, shall observe and closely monitor their health for the next 14 days.
12. How to disinfect offices and workplaces?
Answer: All indoor areas such as entrance lobbies, corridors and staircases, escalators, elevators, security guard booths, office rooms, meeting rooms, cafeteria should be mopped with a disinfectant with 1% sodium hypochlorite or phenolic disinfectants. The guidelines for the same are mentioned under Annexure I of the Guidelines on disinfection of common public places including offices, issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
13. When will it be important to declare closure of a workplace?
Answer: If there are one or two cases reported in the workplace, the procedure of disinfection should be carried out in the areas the patients had visited in the last 48 hours and the workplace can resume working post such disinfection procedure.
However, if a large number of people are infected in a workplace, the entire building requires disinfection and will have to be closed for 48 hours during which the staff shall work from home and when the said building is sufficiently disinfected and declared fit for re-occupation, the workplace can resume functions.
14. Which Notification/Order allows working of Offices and workplaces in Lockdown 4.0?.
Answer: Annexure – II “National Directives for COVID 19 Management” of the Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-A(I) dated 17.05.2020 mentions Additional directives for Work Places from point (viii) to (xii) mentioning;
– to promote work from home as far as possible,
– staggering work hours,
– thermal scanning,
– frequent sanitation between shifts, and
– maintaining social distancing between the workers.
IMPACT OF THESE MEASURES & ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS FROM AMLEGALS:
With the onset of the normal lifestyles resuming, it is important for office environments to not forget social distancing norms in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
It is advisable to place some instruction banners at workplace which are clearly visible so that a constant hammering of these guidelines can occur.
This shall not only help in better maintenance of the already existing amount of cases but would also assist in working towards revival of the economy.
It is important for all of the employers and employees to follow the guidelines in a strict manner and adhere to it every day. A consistency is required.
After thorough screening of employees, maintaining safe distance, constant cleaning and disinfection, etc. only it is wise to initiate working of an office.
During lunch time, an audio can be run with all such instructions so that all are conscious of these instructions at any given point of time.
A daily email to all employees should be sent from the HR department with all such instructions and also seek self declaration from all employees on regular and alternative day basis so that every one is safeguarded.
However, it is important to note that the Government, first and foremost, promoted working from home till it seems feasible, in order to curb this easily contagious disease.