COVID-19 Pandemic Infocentre

 

Organisational Well Being


Workplace Guidelines for a Post-COVID-19 Era


In the last few months our families, colleagues, organizations, communities, and the entire world altogether has been impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The decision of opening previously closed office spaces following the lockdown requires meticulous consideration and encompasses a plethora of facets such as a safe workplace, the wellbeing of all the employees and staff, risk and compliance contemplations, Human Resource processes and so on.  As the government authorities offer reprieves and loosen restrictions so organizations resume business operations, teams such as Compliance, HR, Operations and Technology need to work holistically and create action plans to address hindrances to protecting employees, property and the entire organization. This guide will provide information that will empower these teams in taking decisions and developing an action plan for a secure and successful recovery process.


Formulation and implementation of Employee policies

Employees are the most critical part of any organization’s success. Keeping them safe and ensuring their wellbeing is key throughout any transition back into the workplace. Once you have established a timeframe for re-occupying your facility (or facilities), employee-specific policies, procedures and controls need to be implemented to ensure the safety of your people.


Consider the following points when developing potential workplace policies:


  • Proper implementation of social distancing in the workplace
  • Complying with Local, State and Central government guidelines and how they apply to your operation
  • How to monitor and assess potential for employee exposure
  • Proper employee health screening procedures and isolation of employees who may be infected
  • Additional compliance considerations related to human resources policies and benefit programs

For practicing social distancing norms follow the below mentioned suggestions


  • Make sure that employees can maintain at least six feet of physical separation, including co-workers and customers
  • Mark with signage or tape six-foot spacing for employees and customers to maintain appropriate distance from one another
  • Regularly clean high-touch surfaces including doorknobs, light switches, shared equipment, toilet handles, sink faucets, and clock in/out areas
  • Provide face coverings to employees. Provide hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) and sanitizing products for employees and customers
  • Provide handwashing stations with soap, clean water, and single use paper towels and encourage frequent handwashing for 20 seconds or longer

Develop and agree a response plan:


In case an employee is ill with symptoms of COVID-19, the company needs to be ready with an action plan. Retain the names and contact details of all visitors to company premise for at least one month. This will help public health authorities trace people who may have been exposed


What to do if someone with suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in the workplace?


  • Isolate all those who have been in touch with the infected employee. If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and there is reason to suspect that they may have contracted COVID-19, the person should be quarantined to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If possible open a window for ventilation.
  • The individual who is unwell should use their own mobile phone to call the designated public health service number. If it is an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) then you should call ‘incident room’ and explain the situation and relevant information, such as their current symptoms.
  • Whilst waiting for advice from the designated public health or emergency service, the affected person should remain at least two metres away from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and should cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. If they do not have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
  • If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom (if available.)

What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has visited your workplace?


For contact with a suspected case in the workplace, follow the guidance given by public health authorities:

  • The management team of the office or workplace will be contacted by the designated public health services to discuss the case, to identify people who have been in contact with them and to advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.
  • A risk assessment of each situation can be undertaken by the designated person in workplace. They will provide advice on how to manage based on assessment of the risk.
  • The designated public health services will also be in contact with the affected person directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts to whom they will give appropriate advice.

If a worker is confirmed to have COVID-19?


  • Employers should inform fellow workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality
  • Workers exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should be given instructions on what to do according to your company policies and the national authorities´ guidance
  • Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by designated public health services
  • Workers who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their employer
  • When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • If a confirmed case is identified in your workplace, the designated public health services will provide advice to:
    1. any worker that has been in close face-to-face or touching contact
    2. anyone who has spent any length of time with the worker while he or she was symptomatic
    3. anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids
    4. close friendship groups or workgroups
    5. any worker living in the same household as a confirmed case
  • Contacts are not considered cases and if they are feeling well, they are very unlikely to have spread the infection to others:
    1. those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case. They will be actively followed up by the designated public health services
    2. if they develop new symptoms, or their existing symptoms worsen within the 14-day observation period, they should call the designated public health services for reassessment
    3. if they are unwell at any time within their 14-day observation period and they test positive for COVID-19 they will become a confirmed case and will be treated for the infection. If testing is not available, but the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, they may nonetheless be considered as a confirmed case.
  • Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take any precautions other than monitoring their health for symptoms and can continue to attend work.
  • A confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace will cause anxiety among co-workers and some may become stressed. Clear communication is important, directing workers to reliable sources of information about COVID-19. Managers should be supportive and understanding and as far as possible flexible on work arrangements.


Other considerations:

Evaluate and adopt clear policies with respect to Absence & Leave Management, Work From Home Guidelines, Compensation & Benefits, Work Shifts, Recruitment, Exits, Employee Engagement, Employee Communication, & Compliance Guidelines and so on.

Not all employees will be impacted physically by COVID-19, but many will be impacted by additional stress and mental strain. Ensuring your workplace is safe can help reduce employees’ stress and provides an opportunity to advance the conversation around mental health as well. A better environment is possible when employers address the return to the workplace holistically through a positive culture, transparent communications, empathetic and compassionate leadership, and proactive tools and resources.


Formulation and Implementation of Guidelines for Administration and Facility

Ensure your facilities can safely resume operations. This could include third-party cleaning and disinfection, facility safety checks, assessment of technology security, and the potential design and installation of new technologies intended to mitigate exposures.

Once you have decided to reopen, physical facility and equipment preparation will need to begin. Documentation of the steps you are taking to prepare your facilities and communication to employees continues to be a critical part of the process. Facility design may require adjustments as well as occupancy limitations to maintain compliance with guidelines and best practices.
 
Plan and design entire office and business space/seating/ common utility areas considering the following tips:

  • Ensure that dedicated staff cleans all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as common place doors, door knobs, common utility drawers, fridges, micro ovens, tea/coffee vending machines, common workstations, landline telephones, printers and scanners, lift buttons, countertops, and handles.
  • Toilet seats, faucets and taps in freshening rooms also needs to be cleaned /sanitized regularly.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by workers.
  • Minimise usage of shared utility spaces; design and develop protocols to use the shared locations. 
  • Stagger shift patterns to minimise number of employees on premises at any one time, improve physical distancing / ventilation and hand and respiratory hygiene. 
  • Create safe one-way systems around workplace buildings-avoid people crossing each other at corridors and cafeterias, Develop elevator social distancing guidelines.
  • Establish/confirm building shutdown policies in the event the facility needs to be closed again. In case reopening results in out of control scenario, prepare a step-wise /rapid response closure procedures to shut down plant/offices

The disruption created by Coronavirus has impacted almost every sector of the economy. Therefore, it is imperative to evolve and adapt our workplaces in novel ways to keep employees safe while reopening businesses and organizations.

No matter where your organization stands in the COVID-19 pandemic, Edelweiss Gallagher has the insurance, risk management and consulting resources to help protect your people, your property and your profits.


References:
ILO website, WHO documents