21 May, 2020
8 Min Read
Working safely: On workplaces during the pandemic
Opening up economic production from a lockdown, even partially, when the COVID-19 pandemic has not peaked in the country poses an extraordinary challenge.
Guidelines to be followed in a workplace
Reducing the number of people present at any given time is a universal principle, either through resort to shifts, or arrangements to enable employees to work from home.
Physical distancing of at least one metre, mandatory use of face masks or cover, frequent hand washing with soap, respiratory etiquette, sanitising contact surfaces and self-monitoring of health.
These requirements have by now become familiar to everyone, and employees need only be nudged into adopting them through persistent communication, free provisioning of masks and sanitising materials, and organising office space suitably.
The Centre’s protocol for symptomatic cases at the workplace, requiring testing, and, where warranted, quarantining of both the worker and close contacts, and a two-day closure of offices experiencing an outbreak.
Physical distancing of even one metre, if not the ‘do gaz’ or six feet that Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated, does pose difficulties because of the lack of space and density of workers in many places.
Failure to maintain distancing, more so in a poorly-ventilated, closed environment, gives the virus a free run, as Chennai’s wholesale vegetable market showed starkly.
Some institutions are mandating installation of the Aarogya Setu app by employees returning to work, when the legal basis of this monitoring mechanism remains shaky and there are no assured benefits in terms of health care.
Employers should see the value of keeping staff attendance at safe levels even within the legally permitted ceiling, which now extends to 50% in specified sectors and even in some government offices.
It is imperative for other activities, such as public transport used by many workers, to meet COVID-19 requirements.
A prudent course would be to navigate the present with a minimalist approach, as the quest for a medical breakthrough makes progress.
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