Guidelines on Preventive Measures to Contain Spread of COVID – 19 in Workplace Settings

In its guidelines issued on May 18, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (“MoHFW“) has outlined preventive and response measures to be observed in workplace settings to contain the spread of COVID – 19 (“Guidelines“). Following are the measures laid down in the Guidelines:

  1. Basic Preventive Measures to be Observed
  1. Physical distancing of at least one meter to be followed at all times.
  2. Mandatory use of face covers/masks.
  3. Frequent hand washing (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not dirty and use of alcohol based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds).
  4. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed which includes strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.
  5. Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest.
  1. These measures need to be adopted by all (employees and visitors) at all times.
  1. Preventive Measures for Offices
  1. Guidelines with respect to preventive measures specific to offices as issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (“DOPT“) on March 17, 2020 are to be followed. These are available at here.
  2. Any staff reportedly suffering from flu-like illness should not attend office and should seek medical advice from local health authorities. If diagnosed as a suspect/confirmed case, such persons should immediately inform the office authorities.
  3. Any staff requesting home quarantine based on the containment zone activities in their residential area should be permitted to work from home.
  4. DOPT guidelines with respect to organizing meetings, coordinating visitors are required to be scrupulously followed.
  1. Measures to be taken on Occurrence of Case(s)
  1. When one or few person(s) who share a room/close office space is/are found to be suffering from symptoms suggestive of COVID – 19:
  1. Place the ill person in a room/area where they are isolated from others at the workplace. Provide a mask/face cover till he/she is examined.
  2. Report to concerned central/state health authorities. Helpline 1075 will be immediately informed.
  3. After risk assessment is undertaken by the public health authority (district RRT/treating physician), further advice shall be made regarding management of the case, his/her contacts and need for disinfection.
  4. A suspect case if reporting very mild/mild symptoms on assessment would be placed under home isolation, subject to fulfillment of criteria laid down in MoHFW guidelines available at here.
  5. If a suspect case is assessed as moderate to severe, he/she will follow guidelines at here.
  6. Rapid response team of the concerned district shall be requisitioned and will undertake the listing of contacts.
  7. Necessary actions for contact tracing and disinfection of work place will start once the report of the patient is received as positive. The report will be expedited for this purpose.
  1. If there are a large number of contacts from a pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic case, the essential principles of risk assessment, isolation, quarantine of contacts, case referral and management will remain the same. However, the scale of arrangements will be higher.
  1. Management of Contacts
  1. The District RRT as per the Annexure I of the Guidelines will do risk profiling of contacts into high risk and low risk category.
  1. High-risk exposure contacts shall be quarantined for fourteen (14) days and shall following the guidelines on home quarantine available at here. These persons shall undergo testing as per Indian Council of Medical Research protocol available at here.
  2. Low risk exposure contacts shall continue to work and closely monitor their health for next fourteen (14) days.
  1. Closure of Workplace
  1. If there are one (1) or two (2) cases reported, disinfection procedure will be limited to places/areas visited by the patient in past forty-eight (48) hours. There is no need to close the entire office building/halt work in other areas of the office and work can be resumed after disinfection as laid down in the next paragraph. If there is a large outbreak, the entire building will have to be closed for forty-eight (48) hours after thorough disinfection. All staff will work from home till the building is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation.
  1. Disinfection Procedures in Office
  1. Detailed guidelines on environmental cleaning/decontamination of common public places including offices in areas reporting COVID-19 will need to be followed. These are available at here.