Ministry of Health issues Revised Guidelines for Workplaces

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The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has issued revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in offices on February 13, 2021. These guidelines are largely similar to the SOP issued by the government previously in terms of generic and specific preventive measures to be followed at workplaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We have set out below some of the key measures prescribed under the revised SOP:

1.   Generic preventive measures: The revised SOP continues to emphasize on social distancing and accordingly requires individuals to maintain a distance of 6 feet at all common areas in the workplace, wear masks at all times, wash hands frequently, and follow respiratory etiquettes.

2.     Workplace specific measures: Specific measures to be followed at workplaces include:

•     Requiring drivers in charge of employee transportation to maintain physical distancing at all times, especially within rooms/spaces meant for their use.
•    Making provision for disinfection of the interior of employee transport vehicle using 1% sodium hypochlorite solution, specially the frequently touched surfaces, at least twice in a day.
•     Cleaning and sanitizing the workplace, particularly the frequently touched surfaces, at least twice a day.
•     Restricting the number of people allowed in the elevator at a time using proper floor markings.
•     Allowing entry of visitors at the workplace only after a proper screening.
•     Regularly checking the temperature of the staff working in the cafeteria and enable floor marking for the sake of crowd management.
•     Following CPWD air conditioning and ventilation guidelines (i.e. keeping temperature between 24-30 degree celsius, etc.).

Requirements around following staggered working hours, facilitating work from home, and having separate entries and exits for staff, officers, and visitors are no longer specifically prescribed under the SOPs.

3.     Measures to be taken on occurrence(s) cases: In the event of occurrence of any positive case at the workplace, the employers shall:

•     Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others at the workplace.
•     Provide a mask/face cover till such time he/she is examined by a doctor.
•     Immediately inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline.
•     Seek further advice regarding management of case and disinfection from the medical team who will carry out the risk assessment as per the MoHFW’s guidelines on appropriate management of suspect/confirmed cases of COVID-19 and contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in community settings.

4.     Management of premises: With respect to management of premises, in the event of one or two cases being reported, the disinfection procedure will be limited to places/areas occupied and visited by the patient in the past 48 hours and work can be resumed after the disinfection. However, whole building/block should be disinfected in the event of large number of cases.

Date: February 15, 2021