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Govt issues Covid-19 safe workplace guidelines

By Somesh Jha
October 01, 2020 11:27 IST
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While demanding more outdoor air ventilation, the strategy document calls for a structural modification in the workplace.

The central government has asked companies to avoid the central air conditioning system at workplaces, develop special leave policy for the Covid-19 pandemic and rearrange work set-up.

These are a part of the safety guidelines to be followed during the pandemic.

 

Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan released the ‘Covid-19 safe workplace guidelines for industry and establishment’ framed by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), which has put forth a series of measures in a bid to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

“Every person (with or without symptoms) in the workplace should be considered a potential source of infection and all planning has to be geared with this in mind.

"All the risk factors, including those associated with various worksites and the tasks workers perform at those sites, must be taken into account,” according to the ‘general principles’ of the guidelines.

The strategy document calls for a structural modification in the workplace, which includes installation of physical barriers such as clear glass, or other suitable partition, between workstations as well as deterring employees from taking “cigarette breaks as they are social-distancing disruptors”.

While demanding more outdoor air ventilation, it said companies should avoid central air conditioning and instead use “individual air conditioners with HEPA filters when absolutely necessary”.

“Encourage workers with symptoms of Covid-19 to inform their supervisor and stay at home and seek medical attention.

"Promote the message that workers should stay at home even if they have mild symptoms.

"Allow workers to stay at home to look after family members with Covid-19 and to self-monitor,” the ESIC’s guidelines stated.

The guidelines said the human resource policy of companies should be accommodative and should “reflect the core concern for safety of all”, while adding that health cover should be provided to all - be it through the ESIC or a private mediclaim policy.

The ESIC has asked establishments to cancel all non-essential meetings and move to digital mode for it.

“If possible, hold meeting in open spaces,” it said, adding that non-essential travel should also be discontinued.

The guidelines talk about disallowing employees from going to the cafeteria and encouraging them to carry their own food and eat at their desks.

“Arrange transportation of employees from home to work, if possible… Encourage workers to avoid public transport and walk or cycle to work,” it added.

The guidelines ask companies to do a risk assessment for work-related exposure to Covid-19 and to classify workers depending upon their exposure to risk, along with firming up a plan to deal with sickness at the workplace.

Photograph: PTI Photo

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Somesh Jha in New Delhi
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