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Covid-19 Pandemic: Safe Return to Work and Business Continuity

The Article Earlier Published in https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2020/07/02/covid-19-pandemic-safe-return-work-and-business-continuity/

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Many nations, along with big corporations, industries, organizations as well as all kinds of manufacturing facilities and worksites around the globe are facing with unprecedented nature of obstacles and challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. People are desperate to get back to Pre-COVID life; or at least to be able to attend to their bare minimum day-to-day businesses. Amidst all the uncertainties and restlessness brought about by the disease, business organizations and offices are trying to cope with the situation and open up slowly. However, the threat of novel coronavirus and the risk of its infection among the employees remain paramount.

Employees are the most important resources in any organization, therefore adequate health and safety measures need to be in place to protect them from exposure and transmission of this deadly virus at workplaces.

To begin with, businesses need to form a joint Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) committee/team, if it is not already an integrated part of the organizational management system. Train the team members on the basic principles for the formulation and implementation of OHS preventive and control measures to fight Covid-19. Direct the team to develop a work plan including the steps to be taken to organize a safe and healthy return to work program. Moreover, you can also integrate this work plan into the framework of your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which is basically a comprehensive written plan to maintain or resume the business of your organization in the event of a disruption, such as this one.

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As part of the work plan you should conduct an organization wide Covid-19 risk assessment to determine the preventive and control measures necessary for a safe return to work.

The purpose of this risk assessment is to first identify the work areas and processes which pose the risks of virus spread, then implement proper risk mitigation measures to control those risks. In addition, risk assessment helps you identify critical personnel (who will need to be present at the office and site) and focal points (to monitor Covid-19 prevention and control measures) which are of vital importance while planning for your BCP as well.

The information gathered from the risk assessment would also help organizations to plan for work-from-home, job rotation of employees, emergency preparedness and continuing business activities during extended/unforeseen disruption. Following the risk assessment, the OHS joint committee or team should implement a hierarchy-of-controls strategy that utilizes engineering as well as administrative (or organizational) controls to prevent the spread and transmission of Covid-19 in your facility. Some of the significant aspects of these control measures are discussed below.

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Before as well as after reopening of the workplace, employees/workers need to be provided with all the necessary information about the workplace processes and measures taken against Covid-19. Proper signage should be placed in visible places around the facility explaining requested preventive and control measures to be followed by the employees.  Maximum occupancy of different workplace areas need to be determined to maintain physical distancing of at least 2 meters at all times and in all work-related situations. Management needs to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection, especially in common areas.

However, if your workplace, school, or business has been unoccupied for 7 days or more, it will only need your normal routine cleaning to reopen the area at first. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.

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Make sure that the workplace is ventilated daily, preferably with natural ventilation by opening the windows. In case of mechanical ventilation (HVAC system), you should maintain enough recirculation with outdoor air. Management should strictly avoid high concentration of staff during collective transportation; determine number of riders, maintain distancing and enforce use of mask to cover mouth and nose. office disinfection-4

During the Covid-19 pandemic employers should promote and encourage remote work and telework, as far as possible. To avoid large group of employees, you should adopt work rotation measures including alternating working days. Employees should stay 2 meters away when they must go into a shared space. However, If/when close contact is unavoidable, employees must wear mask or cloth face coverings in corridors, closed spaces, vehicles, meetings, etc. Furthermore, you should try to keep close contact for minimum duration; less than 15 minutes. In case of emergency signs, such as trouble breathing, pressure in the chest, etc. you should immediately inform your supervisors.

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Promotion of personal hygiene is highly important in prevention and control of Covid-19 infection within an organization or otherwise as well. Employers must provide workers with the conditions and means necessary for frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing. It is healthy and safe to prioritize the use of paper towels instead of fabric towels or electric air-jet drying devices in rest rooms. Workers must avoid physical contact when greeting each other. They should avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth without having previously performed hand hygiene and disinfection. Sharing food, drinks, kitchen and personal toilet items can be avoided as temporarily. Don’t forget to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; using inner face of the forearm or elbow is recommended.

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Based on the risk assessment employers should provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to mitigate health & safety risks faced by the workers. Appropriate safety measures, along with proper PPE, need to be implemented for the use and storage of chemicals, particularly those used for disinfecting the work environment. Such practices must always be accompanied by adequate instructions, procedures, training and supervision.

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In addition to environmental disinfection including personal hygiene and various administrative control measures, OHS joint team should also conduct routine health monitoring of employees including temperature checks; twice a day. Management must define protocols to stay at home for workers with symptoms or suspicion of Covid-19. Maintain a travel log for all the staff travelling to/from the high risk regions or countries. Moreover, one should stay alert to identify workers who have had close contact with people infected with Covid-19 and communicate the same with appropriate authorities voluntarily.

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People, in general, are already anxious and stressed due to extended lockdowns and fear of infection. Therefore, management should put extra effort in promoting a safe and healthy working environment which is free from negativity, such as violence, discrimination and harassment.

Make psychological counselling services available to workers in case of need. Besides, the OHS team must ensure that the organization’s safety-critical systems and personnel (such as maintenance, security, first aid, emergency services, transportation, etc.) are ready and fully functional. Develop an organizational emergency response plan especially adapted to Covid-19.

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It is highly important to make your workforce feel safe and secured by regularly communicating with them regarding the changes in safety measures made at the workplace due to unfolding Covid-19 pandemic.

As the situation evolves, management, in consultation with the OHS joint team, should periodically monitor the organization’s Covid-19 prevention and control measures to determine whether they have been adequate to avoid or minimize risk, and to identify and timely implement corrective actions for continuous improvement.

Furthermore, it is highly encouraged to maintain records related to work-related injuries, illnesses as well as worker exposures, monitoring of the work environment and workers’ health.

Although the crisis of Covid-19 is still evolving with numerous confusions and uncertainties around it, we need to realize that we are far from business-as-usual which will be affected for a significant period of time. Therefore, to address the challenges of Covid-19 in your organizations, establishing a resilient health & safety culture now becomes more important than ever.

The Article Earlier Published in https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2020/07/02/covid-19-pandemic-safe-return-work-and-business-continuity/

Also Read:

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COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings

COVID-19 Outbreak: Surgical Face Masks

COVID-19: Know Your Risk Level

COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings

(22 August 2018) When A Fire Broke Out at the 12th Floor of a 16 Story Residential Building in Mumbai

COVID-19: Disinfecting Your Homes and Offices

Construction Industry: Fatal (Focus-Four) Hazards

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A Business Case for Health & Safety….

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account…

 

COVID-19: Disinfecting Your Homes and Offices

The Article Earlier Published in https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2020/06/26/covid-19-disinfecting-your-homes-and-offices/

To fight Covid-19 in your homes and offices you must clean and disinfect the areas where you live and work. To prevent and control the spread of the disease, particular attention should be paid to environmental cleaning of high-touch surfaces, such as tables, chairs, kitchen and food preparation areas, refrigerator handles, doorknobs, window handles, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, cabinet handles, desks, toilets, taps, bathroom surfaces, sinks, work surfaces, etc. It is equally important to routinely monitor the cleaning practices and cleanliness, including choice of disinfectant, measuring and mixing of chemicals, their safe handling & storage and proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

As long as general environmental disinfection is concerned hypochlorite-based products are highly useful and recommended. They include liquid (sodium hypochlorite), solid or powdered (calcium hypochlorite) formulations. World Health Organization (WHO) determines hypochlorite to be effective against rotavirus at a concentration of 0.05% (500 ppm), however, higher concentrations of 0.5% (5000 ppm) are required for some highly resistant pathogens or viruses.

1. Prepare Chlorine Solution from Sodium Hypochlorite Solution

Commercial sodium hypochlorite solutions with different levels of concentration may be readily available for use in a variety of settings (usually with 5% Chlorine Concentration). In non-health care settings, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) may be used at a recommended concentration of 0.1% (1000ppm). However, the recommendation of 0.1% (1000 ppm) in the context of COVID-19 is a conservative concentration; therefore a concentration of 0.5% (5000 ppm) is recommended.

To achieve the desired concentration (in this case 0.5% Chlorine), it is necessary to prepare sodium hypochlorite by diluting the basic aqueous solution with a given proportion of clean, non-turbid water to produce the final desired concentration. Please see below for the calculation of sodium hypochlorite concentrations:

1.1 Formula,

[% Chlorine in liquid sodium hypochlorite / % Chlorine desired] − 1 = Total parts of water for each part sodium hypochlorite.

1.2 Example,

[5% in liquid sodium hypochlorite / 0.5% Chlorine desired] -1 = 9 parts of water for each part sodium hypochlorite

Therefore, you must mix 9 parts of water for each part of sodium hypochlorite solution (5%) to make 0.5% Chlorine solution to be used as a proper disinfectant solution

2. Prepare Chlorine Solution from Calcium Hypochlorite Powder

Solid formulations of hypochlorite (powder or granules) may also be available in a variety of settings. Solid formulations are available as concentrated, high-test hypochlorite (HTH) (65-70%) and as chlorine or calcium hypochlorite powder (35%). To produce the final desired concentration (in this case 0.5% Chlorine), the weight (in grams) of calcium hypochlorite that should be added per liter of water can be determined based on the calculation as below:

2.1 Formula,

[% Chlorine desired ∕ % Chlorine in hypochlorite powder or granules] × 1 000 = grams of calcium hypochlorite powder for each liter of water.

2.2 Example,

[0.5% Chlorine desired ∕ 35% in hypochlorite powder] × 1 000 = 0.0143 × 1 000 = 14.3

Therefore, you must dissolve 14.3 grams of calcium hypochlorite powder (35%) in each liter of water to make a 0.5% chlorine solution.

3. Safe Handling and Storage of Disinfectants  

Since chlorine can rapidly decay in solutions it is recommended to freshly prepare chlorine solutions every day. Likewise, hypochlorite is rapidly inactivated in the presence of organic material; therefore, regardless of the concentration used, it is important to first clean surfaces thoroughly with soap and water or detergent (using mechanical action such as scrubbing or friction) to remove organic matter, followed by the use of disinfecting solution. After sanitizing the surface, when you spray disinfectant solution, minimum 1 minute of contact time is recommended for it to work properly.  

Cleaners should wear adequate PPE and be trained to use it safely. When the solutions are being prepared and used, the minimum recommended PPE includes rubber gloves, eye protection, medical mask, impermeable aprons and closed shoes. The disinfectant and its concentration should be carefully selected to avoid damaging surfaces and to avoid or minimize its toxic effects on people. Be careful, as high concentrations of chlorine can lead to corrosion of metal surfaces and irritation of skin or mucous membrane.   

Disinfectant solutions should always be prepared in well-ventilated areas to ensure circulation of fresh air. You must avoid combining several disinfectants, both during preparation and usage, as such mixtures cause respiratory irritation and can release potentially fatal gases, especially when combined with hypochlorite solutions. Care must be given to store disinfectant solutions in opaque containers (in a well-ventilated and covered area) that is not exposed to direct sunlight. Please don’t forget to keep all the chemicals and solutions strictly out of reach of children.

The Article Earlier Published in https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2020/06/26/covid-19-disinfecting-your-homes-and-offices/

Also Read:

COVID-19 Outbreak: N95 Respirators

COVID-19 Outbreak: Surgical Face Masks

COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings

COVID-19: Know Your Risk Level

COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings

कोभिड-१९ (Covid-19) वा कोरोनाभाइरस (2019-nCoV): तयारी र रोकथामका उपायहरू

Covid-19 or Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Preparedness and Preventive Measures

(22 August 2018) When A Fire Broke Out at the 12th Floor of a 16 Story Residential Building in Mumbai

Ensuring Occupational Health & Safety by Managing Risk

Construction Industry: Fatal (Focus-Four) Hazards

Covid-19 Pandemic: Safe Return to Work and Business Continuity

 

A Business Case for Health & Safety….

Published Article: “A Business Case for Health & Safety Management at Workplace”, New Spotlight Magazine, NEPAL, 28 June, 2018

Introduction

Fundamental Principles of Occupational Health and Safety, an International Labor Organization (ILO) publication in 2008, defines Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) as “the science of the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of hazards arising in or from the workplace that could impair the health and well-being of workers, taking into account the possible impact on the surrounding communities and the general environment”.

It clearly indicates that OHS is not only concerned about the well-being of employees within an organization but also about the community and environment in which it operates.

There could be a number of hazards that workers might encounter in their workplace every day. Slips, trips & falls, manual handling, ergonomic, machine, electric, chemical, and fire related hazards are some of the most frequently encountered risks in a workplace.

There are various international management systems, standards and guidelines available to manage health and safety at workplace. ILO-OSH 2001, BS OHSAS 18001: 2007, ISO 45001:2018, ANSI Z10, and OSHA are the major international players in setting standards and providing benchmarks for sound implementation of OHS management system within an organization.

Along the same line, the recent promulgation of the new Labor Act 2017 and the Labor Rules 2018 has been a milestone steps towards ensuring employees’ health and safety in Nepalese enterprises.

As per the Labor Law, organizations throughout the country are now required to develop OHS policy, assign various OHS responsibilities, form OHS committee, and appoint an OHS Focal Person to manage health and safety within their facilities.

Reporting of accidents & illnesses, provision for workers’ insurance & compensation, securing employees’ stop-work authority & whistle-blower rights, and random inspection conducted by the Labor Office are some of the notable mandatory rules to be followed by every enterprise doing business in Nepal.

Although above rules may sound a far cry from the current safety practices in most of the industries and factories throughout the country, few public and non-profit actors such as, GEFONT, ILO and ‘Occupational Safety & Health Project’ under the Department of Labor have been trying to instill such OHS culture within private sector industries for a long time.

A Business Case

Many studies around the world have clearly shown that workers’ health and safety related issues are closely correlated with productivity and quality of any company.

Moving in this direction, managing Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) can significantly improve the working conditions within your facility. It also helps you make best possible use of your facilities, machines, equipment and employees by reducing loss, increasing productivity and improving quality of your products.

There is no doubt that the number one priority of any business is ‘to make money’ but ‘doing it safely’ makes your business sustainable as well. OHS management is a systematic approach to manage safety & well-being of employees as well as to enhance productivity & quality.

Nevertheless, integrating OHS into day-to-day business practice and in decision making process is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by majority of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nepal today.

Companies worldwide continually strive for ‘lean’ production, ‘green’ supply chain management and ‘safety’ of their employees. When lean, green and safety are aligned, all parties benefit including the company, its customers, environment and the community in which it operates.

If identifying and eliminating waste can answer the ‘what’ for lean, then respect for employees and environment are the foundations for ‘how’ lean tools are applied. Thus it is important to understand that a company cannot be lean without being safe.

Prior to addressing its workplace health & safety related issues, an organization must understand its current safety status including, identifying various health and safety related issues, reviewing past events of injuries or illnesses and analyzing areas of potential losses.

Based on these findings, organizations then should make OHS policy, establish various responsibilities, set achievable goals, write customized OHS programs, define Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), implement them all and periodically measure their performance to maintain a healthful & safe working environment.

During this journey of OHS implementation, the management is bound to identify several hidden opportunities of controlling safety-related losses, such as workers’ compensation, lost production time, lost employee work days, cost of hiring/training new employees, cost of litigation, business interruptions, etc.

Moreover, the management then starts to perceive OHS related expenditures as cost saving opportunities rather than just business losses. In this regard, the loss control tools, within an OHS management system, could help managers improve their overall productivity and quality as well.

There are a number of tangible and intangible losses attached to OHS related expenses resulting from workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. With a closer look, the losses can be precisely calculated in numbers or perceived directly. When a company is able to transform its OHS related tangible losses into savings, it directly translates into the company’s income which can be calculated in numbers.

On the other hand, the possibility of intangible losses such as, diminished company image, lost customers’ goodwill, reduced employees’ morale, employees’ pain & suffering and even Government punishment for wrongdoing, may not be calculated directly but they certainly affect the company’s bottom-line i.e. profit.

Although most of the medium and large enterprises in Nepal are far from applying these scientific approaches of OHS management within their facilities, after the inception of new Labor Act and Rules they are quickly running out of options.

When the country is starting to breathe a sense of political stability, pretty soon multinational brands will be eying for expansion in Nepalese market. If the domestic enterprises are not ready and fail to establish Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) benchmarks, this could easily result in losing a major competitive edge to foreign companies over time.

In recent years, successful business practices around the globe show that the companies which have highly performed, sustained and succeeded over a long period have mostly followed the above principles and business practices.

It is also important to note that such companies are genuinely involved in the well-being of people & planet and are not driven by profit alone. Most of these companies act proactively and responsibly to continuously improve their lean, green and safety efforts thus creating value for their customers as well as for their employees, shareholders and stakeholders.

Published Article: “A Business Case for Health & Safety Management at Workplace”, New Spotlight Magazine, NEPAL, 28 June, 2018

Also Read:

(22 August 2018) When A Fire Broke Out at the 12th Floor of a 16 Story Residential Building in Mumbai

COVID-19: Disinfecting Your Homes and Offices

Covid-19 Pandemic: Safe Return to Work and Business Continuity

Ensuring Occupational Health & Safety by Managing Risk

Construction Industry: Fatal (Focus-Four) Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor