Preventing infections at offices, commercial spaces and essential workspaces

This page describes the basic steps that should be taken at govt. offices and other essential workspaces to ensure workplace safety during COVID19

Every facility should develop a preparedness and response plan

Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:

  1. Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed, including: { The general public, customers, and coworkers; and { Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., international travelers who have visited locations with widespread sustained (ongoing) COVID-19 transmission, healthcare workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19).

  2. Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.

  3. Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; presence of chronic medical conditions, including pre-existing conditions; pregnancy).

  4. Controls necessary to address those risks.

If possible, these controls can be implemented by the facility manager

Engineering controls: Engineering controls involve isolating employees from workrelated hazards.Engineering controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:

  1. Installing high-efficiency air filters.

  2. Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment.

  3. Installing physical barriers, such as teller windows for frontdesk people.

  4. Where possible, installing a drive-through window for customer service for places such as banks, RTO, passport office etc.

  5. Dedicate an isolation room in the facility where any worker who is feeling sick may stay till a doctor or ambulance arrives.

  6. For facilities with upto 5 floors; disable elevators or limit use for moving goods and cargo alone. If elevators must run; strictly restrict the occupancy to one person at a time.

  7. If A/C must be used, disable re-circulation of internal air. Weekly clean/disinfect/replace key components and filters.

Administrative controls: Administrative controls require action by the worker or employer. Typically, administrative controls are changes in work policy or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. Examples of administrative controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:

  1. Have an engagement model with local testing laboratories so that employees who are suspected can be easily and quickly tested.

  2. Encouraging sick workers to stay at home.

  3. Minimizing contact among workers, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework if feasible.

  4. Establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another while maintaining a full onsite work week.

  5. Discontinuing nonessential travel to locations with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks.

  6. Developing emergency communications plans, including a forum for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible.

  7. Providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors (e.g., cough etiquette and care of PPE).

Apart from the above mentioned steps smaller work spaces and organizations can follow the steps below to improve the safety practices at their facility:

  1. Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite.

  2. Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.

  3. Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

  4. Provide masks aprons and gloves to all sanitation and housekeeping staff

  5. Provide security guards with masks and infrared thermometers. Maintain a register with name, phone number, temperature and times of entry and exit of every member and visitor to the facility.

  6. Make it mandatory for everyone to install the AarogyaSetu app.

  7. Encourage all employees to wear masks. Provide a minimum of 3 reusable cloth masks each to every employee.

  8. Schedule section wise meal breaks to avoid overcrowding at cafeteria and lunch rooms.

  9. If possible, ask housekeeping to get lunch at desk rather than food being served at a central location.

  10. Discourage people with elderly parents, small kids or pre-existing conditions from coming to office.

  11. Supply soap, water and hand sanitizers wherever possible including at pantry; shared workstations; reception; conference rooms etc.

  12. Place individual workstations at a distance of atleast 2-meters from each other or ensure that every employee has a minimum of two empty desks on each side of them.

  13. Create a 30 min buffer between shifts to avoid overcrowding at entry points.

  14. Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet etc.

  15. Identify a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safely isolated o Have a plan for how they can be safely transferred from there to a health facility.

  16. Open windows and doors whenever possible to make sure the venue is well ventilated.

WHO Guideline on getting your workplace ready for COVID-19