As non-essential workplaces look forward to re-opening and essential workplaces continue operations, employers in India are forced to deal with the new-normal of COVID-19.
As part of this new reality, employers will be required to consider what measures will be needed to reduce and/or prevent the spread of the illness in the workplace, instill confidence in employees that it is safe to attend work, minimize and/or prevent operational interruptions that could be caused by workplace infections. Safe workplaces will be essential for the Indian economy to get back on its feet.
Where does an employer start?
Start by preparing a risk mitigation plan, as per following three steps:
Identify workplace risks and hazards: The first step for identifying personal, equipment, and surface contact risks is to perform a physical walk-through of the workplace. The walk-through’s purpose is to create a detailed map or list of how workers and others interact in the various parts of the workplace.
Fully understanding the interactions between workers, co-workers, third parties in the workplace, and the physical set-up of the workplace enables the employer to create a detailed list of all identified risks, including those arising from surface and personal contact, and any outstanding questions that need to be addressed.
Evaluating and prioritizing risk mitigation: While the impact of a COVID-19 infection on a person’s health appears to be highly variable, for this evaluation, it would generally be safe to assume any risk or hazard related to the transmission/infection of COVID-19 could have severe consequences.
Determining the level of risk will therefore largely depend on the likelihood of infection, including through surface, personal and external contact. For example, if many employees use the same door to enter the workplace, the risk would be high due to frequent surface contact.
Developing risk mitigation strategies : The third step of risk mitigation involves determining how to minimize or eliminate the identified transmission risks. Focus should initially be on high-risk sources of infection. It is important to consider secondary or tertiary strategies when primary or preferred methods of risk mitigation are not possible. Strategies for addressing risks identified in the workplace will necessarily depend on the nature of the identified risk.
Risk Mitigation Chart
A good tip when crafting a mitigation strategy is to develop a risk mitigation chart, identifying:
- risk factors;
- the likelihood the risk factor will cause transmission or infection;
- whether the risk factor can be eliminated; and
- how the risk factor will be mitigated.
We have included an example of what a risk mitigation chart can look like. When creating these charts, it is important to be as detailed as possible and consider practicable ways to ensure health and safety for all employees.
|Personal contact through weekly employee check-in meetings||Likelihood of transmission/infection||Can the risk factor be eliminated?||Risk mitigation|
|Personal contact through weekly employee check-in meetings||High||Yes||1. Switch to on-line or telephone meetings. |
2. Distribute important information through email or postings.
|Personal contact through use of communal lunch area||High||No||1. Request that employees monitor congestion levels and adjust their behavior accordingly. |
2. Implement staggered lunch or rest breaks to reduce the number of employees in a communal lunch area.
|Equipment contact through shared photocopier||High||No||1. Ensure that shared computers, print stations or office supply rooms are frequently cleaned. |
2. Leave hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes close to communal equipment.
|Equipment contact through opening washroom door||High||Yes||1. Prop open washroom door with a door stop if possible or consider installing motion sensing/non-touch mechanical door opener.|
2. Request employees to try pushing doors by elbows if possible, or cover hand with a disinfectant wipe before pushing/pulling door
3. In the alternative, frequently clean high-touch door surfaces.
|Air-borne Virus Transmission||High||Yes||1. Request employees to cover mouth and nose with a N-95 mask whenever possible.|
2. Install Air purifiers (with HEPA filters) on the office floors
3. For centralised air-conditioned offices, consider installing HEPA filters in the vents.
What else do employers need to know?
Best practices for managing COVID-19 risk mitigation in the workplace
In addition to developing a workplace-specific risk mitigation strategy, employers may also consider adopting some or all of the following best practices to reduce workplace transmission and ensure compliance with any legal issues that may arise in the course of this objective.
- Create a procedure for what steps are required if an employee reports COVID-19 symptoms or possible COVID-19 exposure.
- Create a reporting and/or screening procedure to ensure employees do not attend work if they:
- Are displaying COVID-19 symptoms;
- Have been in close contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are waiting for COVID-19 test results; and/or
- Are otherwise required to be in self-isolation or quarantine.
- In implementing all procedures, ensure employee personal information is lawfully collected and is properly managed and used in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or best practices. Personal information should only be disclosed with the express consent of the employee or if lawfully required.
- Maintain and require social distancing in the workplace, including by:
- Increasing the distance between desks, tables, or workstations;
- Mandating a six-foot distance to be kept between coworkers, or employees and customers using physical distancing markers on the floor where applicable; and/or
- Install physical barriers where distancing is not possible.
- Post signs regarding appropriate hand hygiene, such as effective handwashing procedures, in visible locations in the workplace, including all restrooms and lunchrooms.
- Post signs regarding the symptoms of COVID-19 in visible locations in the workplace, including all entrances, and information regarding what steps employees are required to take if they are experiencing symptoms.
- Perform routine cleanings of the workplace, including high-touch surfaces and/or shared surfaces.
- Provide hand sanitizer dispensers and/or handwashing facilities.
- Provide the appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Suspend all non-necessary business travel, in accordance with the applicable direction given by Indian authorities.
- Limit access to the workplace for non-employees and/or consider how to protect employees from visitors and/or customers.
- Use email, telephone, or video conference to reduce the need for in-person meetings.
- Stagger start and end times and/or schedules in order to reduce congestion at entrances and exits.
- Ensure employees and managers are properly trained to follow all procedures implemented by the employer, including compliance with any updated workplace policy or direction.
- If employees are teleworking away from their traditional workplace or otherwise working in potentially isolating or challenging conditions, consider developing strategies to address any possible risks related to employee mental health during and returning from the pandemic.
- Some employees who are affected by COVID-19 may still be able to work. If this is the case, ensure any need related to an employee’s confirmed or perceived disability, and family status obligations be reasonably accommodated, up to the point of undue hardship.
Customizing the approach
The above-noted list of the best practices is not exhaustive and should be adapted to respond to every employer’s specific needs and situation.
Employers should therefore, adapt to these practices and procedures to meet the specific needs of their businesses and in compliance with applicable legal requirements in their specific jurisdictions or industries.
Employers should also regularly review and modify their approach as further information and guidelines are published by governments and public health authorities, namely those related to preventative measures and symptom identification.
Everyone needs to work together to get India’s economy back up and running safely. To achieve this, employers must consider workplace-specific measures to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, with the following in mind:
- As discussed, these efforts begin with identifying risk factors for viral spread in the workplace and implementing effective mitigation strategies.
- Preparing a risk mitigation chart can be a simple way to assess those risks and develop a tailored approach to implement achievable and effective workplace mitigation strategies creatively.
- The information contained in this publication is intended to provide a starting point for developing risk assessment and mitigation strategies, and is based on information available at the date of its publication.
- To that end, employers should be mindful that best practices and legal obligations may change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
We, at Vinika Fashions, are equipping workplaces with the needed resources to comply with best practices. We are supplying hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, masks, PPE kits, no-contact infrared thermometer, air purifiers, and other equipment that you might need.
Please drop us a line at email@example.com or ping us at +91 – 7980721828 for more details and quote.