This article provides general guidance and information to employers on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and enable employees to return to a safe workplace while keeping the risk of contamination to the minimum. It also provides some tips on how to protect workers’ mental well-being during the pandemic:
1. Determine which employees should return to work first.
It is not practical to allow all employees to return to the workplace at once. Based on business needs, consideration should be given as to which employee and departments should return first.
2. Prepare a safe workplace for the return of employees.
Analyze the workplace layout and plan for systematic cleaning and disinfection of workspaces and store the cleaning supplies and protective equipment that is required such as masks and gloves.
**There are different types of face-masks available such as non-medical masks, surgical masks, and respirators. Check with the health authorities on the use of masks for workplace.
3. Monitor frequently the requirements issued by the government authorities.
As the pandemic situation is changing and knowledge about the virus is increasing, requirements can change rapidly and will need to be incorporated into workplace policies and practices. Comply to the local laws and regulations concerning the maximum number of staff or clients allowed on the premises, restrictions on meetings and types of business activities that can resume operations. Determine the maximum number of people that could stay safely at the canteen at the same time, while respecting physical distancing measures.
- Consider changing food service to a pre-packed “grab and go” option.
- Introduce/encourage cashless payments to avoid cash handling.
- Keep the dining areas clean and hygienic, especially when it comes to the utensils provided by the company, such as cutlery, tableware, and glasses.
4. Inform and train workers about the Covid action plan at work.
Train the employees about the company policies, processes and practices related to the management of Covid-19. Ensure that the employees, as well as the customers and visitors are aware of the company “return to work” plans and procedures.
- A specific procedure should be established to receive goods (loading, unloading) so that the chances of contact between suppliers and employees are reduced.
- If possible, consider disinfecting deliveries at delivery bays before entry into warehouses or production area. Provide a place where mail or parcels could be deposited without contact.
5. Covid action plan to consider before entering a safe workplace
Employees can be subjected to body temperature screening before access to the workplace.
- In case of body temperature higher than 37.5° then access to workplace can be refused.
- If a fingerprint access system is usually in place, consider temporarily switching to a system using individual access cards.
6. Covid action plan to consider for Hygiene and safety measures.
Especially involve workplace health and safety representatives or committees for planning and monitoring the preventive measures. Employees can make important contributions while assessing risks and identifying solutions.
Managers will need to repeatedly emphasize the ongoing requirements for preventive and protective measures, and ensure that they are being consistently applied, such as:
- Remind employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially upon arrival at work, after using the bathroom, after blowing their nose/coughing/sneezing, and before eating.
- Place posters and signs promoting correct hand washing. Infographics without too much accompanying text seem can be effective.
- Provide alcohol-based hand gels (containing 60-80% alcohol 1) in places where it is not possible to wash hands with soap and water.
- Instruct employees to wash their hands after contacting frequently touched surfaces such as door handles.
- Remind employees about the need to cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue and to immediately discard the used tissues in covered no-touch bins.
- Establish daily cleaning protocols to ensure a hygienic workplace and facilities are neat and clean. The housekeeping team should have the supplies, training and personal protection equipment necessary to carry out these tasks.
- The housekeeping team can pay specific attention to high touch / high traffic areas. These may include: canteen facilities, lockers / changing rooms, corridors, shared desks and keyboards, vending machines, handrails, door and window handles, light switches, buttons of elevator doors, toilet doors, soap dispensers, washbasin taps, control panels/buttons of appliances and machines such as printers, frequently used tools etc.
7. Covid action plan to consider while travelling to and from work
Encourage employees to avoid public transport at peak times. If an employer provides transport such as a van or a bus:
- Maintain a minimum recommended distance between each person according to the type of vehicle.
- If the recommended distance cannot be assured, consider providing additional protection such as face-masks, in line with the recommendations of national health authorities.
- Pay attention to proper ventilation such as open windows while driving.
- Clean the vehicle regularly, paying attention to frequent cleaning of high touch areas (e.g., door handles, handrails) in particular.
- Avoid crowding at transport access points.
In many ways maintaining a safe workplace will take joint effort of all the management and staffs. Ensuring safety policies are implemented and communicated will encourage employees to resume work back at the office in a hygienic and safe environment.