Workplace safety should be your #1 priority to get back to growth. As an HR leader, you play one of the biggest roles in maintaining organizational and employee health. If you are a small business owner or a startup founder, read on to learn about top official workplace safety guidelines. We at Asanify have gleaned these information from multiple official sources to help you get back to work. In a post COVID-19 office, any HR leader will need to own safety as a responsibility. Today’s blog covers everything you need to know about bringing your workers back to work in a safe manner.
In this blog:
- What are the workplace safety guidelines for office reopening?
- FICCI Checklist for workplace safety
- 8 ways to maintain organizational and worker safety in the manufacturing sector
- What role will technology play to ensure workplace safety post COVID?
- What challenges will HR face after the pandemic?
What are the workplace safety guidelines for office reopening?
Let us tackle the main question first. Regardless of whether your workplace has opened up or is yet to begin operations, some steps must be taken to ensure complete safety in the office. Moreover, these steps will not just prevent the spread of the pandemic but are important for day-to-day hygiene maintenance as well.
Conduct Regular Testing
Provided that this particular virus can also display no symptoms at all, testing employees regularly is necessary. Furthermore, it is advisable to carry out regular health-checkups in the office on an annual basis even without an ongoing pandemic. Medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure must also be diagnosed on time.
Sanitize Work Stations
I know, sanitization is the only thing that people are talking about. But it is much more than that. When you as an HR manager insist on sanitizing individual workstations, it shows that you believe in a safe and hygienic workplace. Additionally, sanitizers kill various fungi and bacteria keeping your workspace healthy.
Incorporate safety guidelines in work policies
In order to ensure organizational and employee safety in a post covid office, follow the government guidelines given. HR policies should state preventive measures such as:
- Wearing face masks
- Maintaining social distance
- Quarantining as soon as a co-worker as covid symptoms
- Ensuring transportation for employees
- Holding areas for workers who display symptoms at work
- Only 25 or 50% of the workspace must be occupied.
- Follow state guidelines of local lockdowns in containment areas
- Follow updates as given by WHO, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Government of India
Automate HR Processes
HR activities such as hiring, onboarding, and compensation should be automated to avoid any manual work. Similarly, salary slips can be generated through online payslip software. This will not only save a lot of time but also reduce the amount of physical contact people have with each other.
Increase Employee Awareness
Occupational health and safety are often not given the importance they should be given. Moreover, it is a vital role of a CHRO and must strive to increase employee awareness on the issue. Health awareness drives, safety posters around the office, and implementing stringent safety measures in policies are some ways this can be achieved.
FICCI Checklist for workplace safety
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) is a group of Indian business organizations. FICCI is an NGO and is a not-for-profit organization. It provides a space for businesses to network and discuss policy reforms in industries across all sectors.
Keeping with the current economic and business scenario, FICCI released a checklist for businesses to continue operations after the lockdown. The FICCI checklist is a self-service tool and is designed to check business readiness. It consists of 11 key points:
1. Information and Flexibility
This section has 3 main checkpoints. These include pointers such as awareness regarding guidelines provided by the government with respect to COVID-19. Additionally, business owners must have the data concerning sick employees, hotspots, and conditions of the region the business is located in.
2. Hygiene Etiquette and Clean Workspace
This section has 31 pointers for businesses to check for. The important things to note here are regular workplace sanitation, social distancing measures, thermal scanning equipment, adequate medical assistance, etc.
3. Self Declaration Forms
Self Declaration Forms are filled by individuals themselves. This section has 5 sub-points. These forms act as declarations by the employees stating they are not suffering from any symptoms and have not been infected with the virus. For businesses, these forms included details such as transport vehicle sanitation, worker safety, etc.
4. Establish a Response Plan
The 7 pointers to measure business readiness to establish response plans include a few different things. These include checks for identification of essential business functions, cross-trained response teams, establishing protocols, to name a few.
5. Employee Communication Plan
The employee communication plan section has 8 sub-points within it. It centres around distributing the right information amongst employees, setting up POCs for workers, designing appropriate HR policies, creating a company response plan and sharing it, etc.
6. Policy on Travel
The points mentioned with respect to travel include:
- Checking national and state guidelines on travel restrictions
- Limiting business travel to highly essential activities only
- Ensuring no employee with flu-like symptoms travels outside
7. Reporting and Restrictions after travel or exposure
Once the employees are back after travelling for business, necessary safety precautions have to be taken to ensure that they are not infected. This can be done by asking them about places they went to and whether there is a potential risk of exposure to COVID.
8. Evaluate Leave Options
HR policies must now include health and safety recommendations. Additionally, leave policies must also be appropriate for the current situation. When an employee leaves due to COVID-19, he/she should have a clear idea on health insurance, payment during absence, or any modifications in the current leave policy.
9. Explore Work from Home options
Working from home is currently the norm around the world for many businesses. The first step to understand whether your business can function with your employees working from home is to design a work from home policy. Next comes evaluating the available resources such as IT and infrastructure to facilitate WFH. Also, identify any limitations that the business may face such as accommodation documentation and available leave requests.
10. Remind employees that discrimination is prohibited
Regardless of the working conditions, workplace discrimination must be dealt with strongly. Moreover, set up anti-discrimination policies along with training managers to deal with changes occurring due to changes in work arrangements.
11. First day after lockdown is lifted
Congratulations! Let’s assume the lockdown in the region has been lifted and you have decided to begin physical work operations. Here are the primary things to consider on the first day:
- Team managers are in office and monitoring employee activity
- Safety guidelines are being followed to the dot
- A special committee is set up to observe work activities daily to make changes in existing processes
8 ways to maintain workplace safety in the manufacturing sector
The manufacturing sector is one of the most hazard-prone industries. Without proper identification of health risks and safety hazards, working on a job-site can get very unsafe. As a result, industrial workers are always at high risks due to a large number of workers, electrical exposure, and wet working conditions.
While most manufacturing plants were shut for the most part of the pandemic, the manufacturing sector was the first to open up due to the need for produced goods. Thus there is a special requirement to pay attention to the safety of labourers when they return to work fully.
1. Attendance Management
In order to keep the factory safe, take steps right from the time the workers come to work. Since there is a large number of workers on-site, it can become difficult to track attendance for every worker. Automating the attendance management process helps maximize productivity and saves time spent on micromanaging employees.
2. Automated Cleaning Activities
Maintaining a clean warehouse or plant makes a safe factory. To ensure that distancing is being followed, activities such as cleaning floors, regular dusting, etc. can be automated using specialized cleaning robots. In addition, when this task gets automated, workers will have more time to work resulting in improved productivity levels.
3. Work Cubicles to Ensure Distancing in post covid office
Physical distancing is one of the main ways to keep COVID in check. However, maintaining a safe distance is a general recommendation even for the common flu, influenza, etc. Building individual cubicles at least for supervisors, if not, all workers can ensure the maintenance of physical distance to some extent. Moreover, installing transparent shields and other physical barriers can help to separate workers from visitors. This is a good option for a factory where complete social distancing might not be possible.
4. Staggering Shifts for Work Flexibility
This is a very important point for the manufacturing sector. Considering the number of workers on-site, staggering work shifts must occur after factories reopen. These shifts can either be alternate days such as Monday to Wednesday shifts and Thursday to Saturday shifts. Additionally, the creation of new work shifts can guarantee suitable distancing.
5. Enforce guidelines in canteens
In most workplaces, lunch or mealtimes are the ones where people gather the most. To avoid this, make strict guidelines regarding the ‘start’ and ‘stop’ times of breaks and the number of people allowed to sit per table. Also, the canteen must be clean and tidy.
6. Discourage Sharing of Tools
Tools and equipment are the second most essential part of a factory, after workers. Consequently, sharing tools can lead to the spreading of infections through contact. If possible, provide separate, sanitized equipment sets to different batches of workers.
7. Paid Sick Leaves
There has been a change in attendance and leave policies around the world due to COVID. In a post covid office, sick leaves will have to be paid as a lot of companies are realizing the importance of employee health and rising healthcare costs.
8. Exit Management
Along with attendance monitoring, employee exists must also be automated. This makes it easy to track working hours and the number of leaves taken.
What role will technology play to ensure workplace safety post COVID?
As I said, technology will play a big role in maintaining health and safety once offices reopen for good.
Contactless Access Control
Post covid-19, office entrances will undergo a complete revamp. There will be contactless attendance tracking systems that will enable employees to record their entry times. Hence, this will prevent crowding and ensure safe distancing. Furthermore, tracking visitors on the office premises without any need for human contact is also possible through contactless access controls.
We see security personnel with thermal cameras every day in public places. Their primary function is to conduct temperature screenings of whoever enters places such as malls, airports, or even shops. However, the process of doing this manually is time-consuming and often creates long queues. In a post covid office, thermal imagining through artificial intelligence to detect impending infections will be a possibility. Additionally, many offices have set up AI-based tablets and devices that have in-built thermal imaging cameras.
AI for Mask Detection
As you know, the risk of transmission of most viruses is through the air. Face masks are the new norm and can significantly decrease the chances of catching COVID. AI-powered face mask detectors are quickly becoming the new trend that can detect face masks on an individual. Such a system can help to punish workers that are violating safety guidelines and prevent further infection.
No-contact Coffee Machines
The coffee machine is usually the area where most workers like to hang around and chat. With no contact coffee machines, there is a lower risk of unnecessary contact. The way these machines work is through drink selection from a finger placed 2 cms away from the screen.
Detection of Personal Equipment
Automatic detection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can detect several body parts at once. These include the face, head, and hands. The output generated is through images that display whether the person is wearing appropriate safety equipment. Furthermore, the type of PPE along with the corresponding body part can be determined. People who deploy this AI-based equipment detection can also set a confidence score ranging from 50-100 which can act as a metric on the safety measures followed by the specific individual.
What challenges will HR face after the pandemic?
Human Resources has already faced and overcome some major challenges such as incorporating remote work, maintaining employee engagement virtually, and maintaining organizational values. In addition, there are some challenges that will crop up in the post covid office.
Although a lot of companies have automated the onboarding process for new recruits, it will become essential post the pandemic. Using cloud HR for employee onboarding has a lot of benefits:
- Schedule meetings automatically
- Save time and money on document printing by distributing necessary documents digitally
- Automated employee database to collect information about new hires
- Deploy HR chatbots to answer FAQs and common queries
Remote work or work-from-home (WFH) has been the norm for the past seven to eight months. Big companies such as Google have already said that employees will be working remotely till June 2021. Therefore, remote work is definitely here to stay.
The main challenge for HR is maintaining remote work motivation in employees. Along with that, keeping employees engaged and making sure of their well being are related concerns. In a post covid office, bringing back employees will be a major challenge. HR managers will have to rethink work shifts and arrangements to guarantee worker safety. In addition, “working hours” will undergo a complete transformation as employees will be required to readjust to working in an office.
Strategizing for the Gig Economy
The gig economy is basically a system where companies hire contractors and freelancers on a contractual basis for specific projects. The concept of the gig economy has become popular since the pandemic hit us in full force. However, most managers have realised the importance and appeal of hiring short-term employees which is why it is presumed that the trend will continue well into the future. Thus, HR leaders will have to strategize and plan for this special economic system as well. They will have to work out how to hire, onboard, train, and compensate the gig workforce along with full-time employees.
Increase Learning and Development
A lot of things will have undergone changes once workplaces reopen. One of those is the type, quality, and medium of employee learning and development. For example, automated sales training and learning methods provide training materials to employees cutting down on time and costs. Innovations such as HR chatbots and automatic sales onboarding are able to generate learning quizzes on the basis of data entered to maximize information retention and application. This can be employed for both, remote and in-office employees.
None of us truly know when the pandemic will be over. However, we do have the know-how and the resources to ensure that workplaces open safely. We talked about the various steps human resources can take to ensure safety measures post the pandemic. These include regular testing and sanitation, enforcing strict health guidelines, and increasing employee awareness.
We also saw the 8 ways in which the manufacturing sector can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infections. Technology will certainly play a huge role in the post covid office as new innovations for increased safety measures are being introduced every day. Lastly, we also saw the challenges HR will face once offices reopen in their full capacity.
Not to be considered as tax, legal, financial or HR advice. Regulations change over time so please consult a lawyer, accountant or Labour Law expert for specific guidance.