COVID-19: Ultimate guide to re-opening your office during Covid-19

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Re-opening your office during COVID-19 is already intimidating and confusing. To ease your burden here’s a breakdown of the ‘POST-COVID RETURN TO WORK ADVISORY’ by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services. Here’s all you need to successfully re-open

For Clarity, Download this as a checklist here

1. AUDIT AND REPORT

  • The Directorate  mandates every workplace conduct and audit on the health and safety of the workplace in particular regard to COVID-19. Covering multiple themes, here’s what your report needs to include:
  • A risk assessment carried out on sources of potential exposure to COVID-19 and the steps taken to mitigate the risk.
  • Preparedness policy statement on COVID-19 (see point 2) and level of readiness
  • The report shall duly be titled POST COVID-19 INITIAL SAFETY AND HEALTH AUDIT REPORT
  • The report shall be accompanied by an action plan specifying clearly among other health and safety concerns, clear action items for COVID-19.
  • The audit shall be conducted by a safety and health advisor, who shall conduct the audit, issue a report and send a copy of the report to the Director. List of approved advisors here.
  • Report must be submitted to the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services within thirty (30) days of re-opening.
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2. PREPARE A COVID-19 POLICY & WORKPLACE RESPONSE

Workplaces shall develop and communicate to all employees a COVID-19 Preparedness Policy Statement that address all aspects of COVID-19 readiness. This should include:

  • The workplaces COVID-19 readiness
  • Occupational Health and Safety risks associated with COVID-19
  • Prevention and Mitigation measures of Occupational COVID-19 risks including:
  • Infection control plans
  • Social Distancing of no less than 2m in every direction
  • Hand washing/sanitising directives
  • Strict proper use of face masks through the entire workday and in social spaces.
  • Arrangements for dealing with confirmed and suspected cases
  • Client handling
  • Arrangements for dealing with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases
  • Clear guidelines and specific requirements when sick or ill staff may be absent to attend hospital and for staff who are not sick or ill but need to be absent to care for others, especially family members.

3. ASSESSMENT OF NON-ESSENTIAL WORK AND WORKING FROM HOME

  • Employers and workplaces should identify work activities and workers whose services can still be performed from home:
  • Workplaces should document and issue specific protocols for stay at home workers.
  • Appraise such employees on daily, weekly and monthly KPIs (key performance indicators) i.e. Workplaces should ensure their employees capable of working from home continue to do that. As an employer, it’s your duty to keep them sufficiently busy and working.

4. COMMUTING TO WORK

  • Sensitise your workers on COVID-19 risk mitigation measures including information on keeping safe while in private and public transportation systems.
  • When possible workplaces should provide safe commute to and from work for their employees.

5. WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY

  • Workplaces should adopt a new health and safety culture that focuses on prevention and minimisation of COVID-19 transmission:
  • Strict observance of 2m social distancing in all directions.
  • Sufficient hand sanitisers/washing stations with regular use protocols instated
  • Regular disinfection of common areas and surfaces
  • Provide and enforce use of face masks throughout the entire work day
  • Employees who fail or refuse to follow health and safety protocols shall be denied access to the workplace

6. WORK INJURY INSURANCE

  • Workplaces should obtain and maintain an insurance policy with an insurer registered by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) to cover any liability that their employees may incur under Work Injury Benefits Act, 2007. This is in accordance with section 7(1) of the Work Injury Benefits Act. The policy should:
  • Explicitly confirm that all occupational diseases and confirmed occupational exposures to COVID-19 are covered by that insurance

7. MEDICAL EXAMINATION AND ISSUANCE OF CERTIFICATES OF FITNESS

  • All workers returning to work after re-opening shall be required to:
  • Attend medical examination conducted by any registered medical practitioner
  • Be issued a certificate of fitness by said practitioner where applicable required under the Factories and other places of Work (Medical Examination) Rules, L.N 24 of 2005.
  • The medical practitioner shall ensure that any tests for COVID-19 are conducted only by accredited laboratories and that the procedures adhere to guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.

8. HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENTS FOR RETURNING EMPLOYEES

  • Workplaces shall conduct specific health risk assessments to determine if any particular workplace substances or activities pose significant risk to human health and if so, under what circumstances:
  • Specifically what activities pre-dispose returning employees to elevated risks of COVID-19 and control measures implemented.
  • Include this assessment in the COVID-19 policy and workplace response (See point 2)
  • 9. MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING
  • COVID-19 has undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the stability and independence of a lot of people. Especially vulnerable groups those dealing with financial insecurity, job instability and other profound stresses. In order to maintain happy and healthy employees, workplaces are encouraged to minimise any potential impact on employees going forward. Workplaces should:
  • Discuss how COVID-19 has affected their employees in both their working and personal life and steps employers can take to minimise the impact
  • Where possible link employees up to a mental health support programme

10. SUSPECTED AND CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASES:

  • Any employee with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection shall:
  • Inform the employer
  • Report to the identified Ministry of Health institutions for care, quarantine or self-quarantine as maybe appropriate (The employer shall require this)

11. DISCRIMINATION OF SUSPECTED AND CONFIRMED COVID-19 POSITIVE EMPLOYEES:

  • A workplace shall not dismiss, discriminate against or disadvantage an employee in any way with respect of the employee’s status with regard to COVID-19
  • A workplace will not discriminate against an employee who makes a complaint about a matter which the employee considers not safe or a risk to health
  • All employees shall be required to report any forms of discrimination or attempted discrimination to the Director of Occupational Safety and Health Services in accordance with section 8(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007 and Work Injury Benefits Act, 2007.

12. REPORTING OF COVID-19 POSITIVE EMPLOYEES BY MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS

Any medical practitioner who examines and diagnoses a worker with an occupational disease, which includes occupationally acquired COVID-19 shall within fourteen days after the first examination of the employee, furnish a medical report to the Director in the prescribed manner. This is in accordance with section 48 (1) of the Work Injury Benefits Act, 2007.

13. REGISTRATION OF WORKPLACES

COVID-19 is already affecting some workplaces but because they are not registered and remain unknown, such workplaces may not benefit from workplace interventions by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health services. Such workplace interventions may include:

Training as indicated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007, section 8(d) which says that the Director ‘may conduct training for enterprises’ and others

Therefore,

  • Before any person occupies or uses any premises as a workplace, that person shall apply for the registration of the premises by sending to the Director a duly filled in DOSH 21A FORM
  • No person shall be allowed under any circumstances whatsoever, to reopen without a certificate of registration as a workplace and without self-assessment on COVID-19 preparedness at the time of application for registration
  • All workplaces that are already registered and the certificates have not expired shall be exempted from this requirement
  • Note: A “workplace” includes, any land, premises, location, vessel or thing, at, in, upon, or near which, a worker is, in the course of employment. Examples of workplaces are factories, office spaces, places of worship with any number of employees.

14. HEALTH AND SAFETY AUDITS

See point number 1

15. WORKERS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

In regards to employees over 60 years of age, employees with pre-existing conditions and employees with other dangerous conditions that exacerbate the risk of COVID-19 employers shall:

Be required to collaborate with these employees to ensure their safe and healthy

16. CONTINUOUS MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF COVID-19 ON WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY CONDITIONS

  • Work places are strongly advised to:
  • Document the evolving impact of COVID-19 on Workplace Health and Safety Conditions
  • Regularly update the Director of Occupational Safety and Health on specific interventions that require the attention of the regulatory authority on occupational safety and health matters

17. REFERENCE REOPENING DATE

The reference date of reopening shall be the date as announced by the Government of Kenya

Some more resources:

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADVISORY ON CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services.

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