COVID-19: Staying Safe in the Workplace
With the lockdown partially lifted in Rwanda, people can now move around and businesses are allowed to open up with a country-wide 8 PM curfew in place.
This has prompted organizations to put stringent precaution measures in place to minimize the potential spread of the virus and protect their employees.
Here are a few recommendations on what businesses can do to further mitigate the risk of infection of their employees.
Educate Your Workforce and Communicate Regularly with Employees
Employers should communicate openly and often with the workforce so that employees have the information they need to help keep themselves educated and updated about the virus. Communicating regularly with your employees regarding company policies and procedures related to good hygiene, business travel, quarantines, working remotely, safety precautions and screening visitors is an effective method to demonstrate to your workforce that you are monitoring the situation and working to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Reinforce Good Hygiene Practices and Take Related Safety Precautions
Generally, employers are required to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm and to comply with occupational safety and health standards and rules. Accordingly, employers should remind employees to take basic preventive measures and safety precautions that may help to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus or spreading it in the workplace, including:
– Frequently washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
– Avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth;
– Covering sneezes or coughs with tissues, if possible, or else with a sleeve or shoulder;
– Avoiding close contact with people
– Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.
To facilitate these practices, employers should ensure that they maintain adequate supplies in the workplace, including tissues, soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, and hand wipes.
Suspend or Limit Business Travel
Employers should consider prohibiting or strictly limiting business travel to countries and regions that pose a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus. Businesses should give serious consideration to canceling, postponing or rescheduling company meetings or group events (e.g., retreats, sales meetings, trade shows, etc.) to minimize the risk of large numbers of employees coming into contact with the virus at one time. In some instances, videoconferencing may be a reasonable alternative to in-person meetings.
Consider Having Non-Essential Employees Work Remotely
In this digital age, it may be possible for employers to encourage many employees whose presence in the workplace is not essential to work remotely. Employers should consider the security risks of allowing employees to work remotely and should also take steps to provide IT support and equipment for employees who may be able to work remotely but have not historically done so.
Screen Visitors to the Workplace
Employers have a duty to protect visitors to the workplace from hazards that are not open and obvious. By the same token, visitors to the workplace, including vendors and delivery persons, should be screened for exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus and should be excluded from the workplace if they exhibit symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
These preventive measures will enable employees to work in a safe and healthy environment triggering a reduction in infections so life as we know it can go back to normal.