What establishments can do to take care of the safety of their employees
The second wave of corona infection in India has spread to unprecedented levels with the daily positive cases breaching 2 lakh. Businesses that have already taken a severe beating when the pandemic broke out in 2020 face worse situation this year.
The second wave of corona infection in India has spread to unprecedented levels with the daily positive cases breaching 2 lakh. Businesses that have already taken a severe beating when the pandemic broke out in 2020 face worse situation this year. The spike in the everyday fresh load of coronavirus cases is expected to affect business, our day-to-day lives which is evident in the recent curbs imposed in different parts of the country in the form of complete lockdown, weekend lockdown and night curfew.
As the pandemic caught the world off guard, it posed a severe threat to all countries and each country adopted strategies to fight it, of which some fared better than others. Now, we have learnt many lessons the hard way in the first wave and we can draw from the past experiences in fighting second wave.
Although the government now has imposed a partial lockdown allowing only essential services to function, there is high chances of infection spreading even during this time if the businesses or organisations are not following the Covid guidelines. Places like hotels, vegetable stores or the smaller businesses can increase the spread of virus if Covid appropriate behaviour is not followed.
Let us look at what the businesses or employers can do to take care of the safety of the employees during this time:
Assess staffing requirement
One of the first things employers should consider is to assess staff requirements and check if they can cut down the physical presence of employees at workplace. With the advent of technology, there are many options available for employers to allow their staff to work remotely.
Reduce physical contact
Some businesses demand the physical presence of the staff at the workplace. The staff need to be present physically to ensure business continuity. In such cases, ensure that the staff are allowed to work by maintaining social distancing. Provide PPE kits to workers if the situation demands. Install barriers -- glass or window partitions-- change the seating arrangement and if it's a hotel, separate billing or booking counter, stall etc and switch to online payment options, self-serve options and automation. Also, ensure that your facility is properly ventilated.
Sanitize the work space at regular intervals
Frequently touched surfaces like taps, doorknobs, lift buttons, phones, light switches etc should be cleaned often.
Do not allow any employee or visitor to enter the office, worksite or company without screening. Those who have symptoms when they arrive at work or fall sick at work should be immediately isolated from others. If they test positive for corona, disinfect the area used by the worker and the employer must inform the fellow employees of the possible coronavirus exposure. Also, it is suggested to have split lunch timings in batches if the establishments have more employees to avoid crowding. Encourage staff to use stairs instead of lifts. Simple measures like contactless logins (biometrics), restricting people to stepping out of office unless absolutely necessary is very crucial to contain the spread of the infection.
All the companies and offices must have a Covid-19 plan on how the risks are assessed, mitigated, how to implement the new guidelines issued by the government from time to time and other information. Workers should be educated on the plan and it is also crucial to receive their feedback on safety, reducing the risks and their worries. Staff might need other supports as is it common for them to experience fear, anxiety and poor mental health during the pandemic. Always be open to the employees if they want to switch shift or take leave in the event of them or their family members turning positive for Covid-19. Being self-disciplined & following COVID appropriate behaviour all the time, all the places is the need of the hour.
Keep a close track of the standard operating procedures and guidelines issued by your respective governments and modify your plans accordingly. Do not ignore the symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 - feverishness, chills, loss of taste and smell, pink eye, unusual cough, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, heart palpitations, and body pain.
Finally, ensure that all the eligible staff are vaccinated at the earliest.
Dr Angelina Mendos
(Writer is consultant, Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur)