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Government issues safety Guidelines for offices

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As per the country entered in the fifth phase of lockdown, most of the offices including both the private and government have been allowed to operate with full strength. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India on Thursday issued standard operating procedure (SOP) on preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in office.

All workplaces have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they can work safely. During these unprecedented times, there is now an increasing need for employers to provide clear communications around the new safe working practices in relation to COVID-19 in order to ensure compliance with the latest Government guidance.
“Offices and other workplaces are relatively close settings, with shared spaces like work stations, corridors, elevators and stairs, parking places, cafeteria, meeting rooms, and conference halls, etc. and Covid-19 infection can spread relatively fast among officials, staffs, and visitors,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a release.
“There is a need to prevent the spread of infection and to respond in a timely and effective manner in case suspect case of Covid-19 is detected in these settings, so as to limit the spread of infection,” it added.

The persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. In addition to that, the guideline provides four different sets of preventive measures to be followed by every work premises, starting with some of the basic preventive steps like individuals must maintain social distancing, masks to be mandatory, washing our hands, and use of Arogya setu app.

Further added, specific preventive measures for offices have been issued in the benefit of the employees. Office authorities are to make sure that, entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. Only asymptomatic staff/visitors shall be allowed. Any officer and staff residing in the containment zone should inform the same to the supervisory officer and not attend the office until the containment zone is denotified.  Such staff should be permitted to work from home and it will not be counted as a leave period.

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The following measures will be taken if and when a case occurs in the workplace. Office authorities should make sure ” 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. The suspect case if reporting very mild/mild symptoms on an assessment by the health authorities would be placed under home isolation. The necessary actions for contact tracing and disinfection of the workplace will start once the report of the patient is received as positive.

If there are large numbers of contacts from a pre-symptomatic case, there could be a possibility of a cluster emerging in a workplace setting. Due to the close environment in workplace settings, this could even be a large cluster (>15 cases). The essential principles of risk assessment, isolation, and quarantine of contacts, case referrals, and management will remain the same. However, the scale of the arrangements will be higher.

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