Ministry highlights precautions to follow in workplaces as COVID-19 restrictions eased
Phase 1 of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Qatar has seen the opening of some places, including malls, parks, mosques, health facilities, and workplaces all of which are subject to strict rules.
During the current phase, twenty percent of employees will be allowed to work in offices.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has issued a set of precautionary and preventive guidelines under the 'Return to Work' section on its website.
Employers are urged to adhere to these guidelines to ensure employee safety and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in workplaces.
According to the Ministry, the aim of these measures is "to facilitate the safe and gradual return of employees to work and have adequate measures in place to protect their health by reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission as much as practicable when they join."
Physical distancing, infection prevention, and control, mental health awareness, regulating entry, and exit are some of the areas, among others, that employers have been asked to pay attention to.
Below are all the guidelines specified by the Ministry:
- Employers/ management is asked to appoint a designated employee to act as a Compliance Officer to ensure implementation and monitoring of all guidance. This will include keeping a check on social distancing and infection prevention and control procedures.
COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENT AND RESPONSE PLAN
- Employers should develop and update a COVID-19 response plan to manage any suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the office. The plan should specify the steps of what to do in an event an employee displays symptoms during working hours.
- A risk assessment on health and safety should be conducted before any return to the workplace and put in place relevant measures to ensure the health and safety of employees in line with MOPH guidance. The assessment should cover risks posed by facilities, services, working conditions, and the composition of the workforce.
- Based on the conducted risk assessment, develop a plan for resumption of services, and staff return to work in line with the phases.
- There should be a log of all participants in any group activity or service where multiple staff is involved. This needs to be kept to facilitate contact tracing if needed.
- Consider completing a return to work form for all employees before resuming duties.
- A minimum distance of 1.5 meters should be maintained between staff during their work, or 9 meters square per person is recommended. However, in cases where distance cannot be maintained, the physical barriers must be used to separate employees.
- The number of staff working onsite must be reduced in line with the State's guidance in each phase.
- There should be no more than 5 people in the same room when in a meeting (during phase 1).
- Floor and furniture markings should be used to maintain appropriate social distancing.
- Avoid hot desking (i.e. use of the same desk by multiple employees).
- Employees should be reminded of distancing requirements with clear and visible signage.
INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL
- All employees must undergo regular testing as per MOPH guidance (at employer cost).
- Hand sanitizers should be made available for employee use at several locations within the offices
- Body temperature of the employees to be checked upon arrival.
- Promote hand hygiene/ frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
- All employees in the office should wear face masks at all times.
- Handshakes and all forms of physical greetings that require touching or coming close must be avoided.
- All regularly touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected periodically using standard disinfection products.
- Toilets are cleaned and disinfected after each use.
REGULATING ENTRY AND EXIT
- Regulate entry to make sure the office premise is not overcrowded.
- Thermal screening of employees, and visitors (entry prohibited for those over 38 degrees).
- Etheraz App to be downloaded by all employees, and visitors. This will be checked and only those with the green status are to be allowed entry.
WORKING HOURS AND REMOTE WORKING
- 20 percent of employees to work onsite while 80 percent to work remotely where applicable.
- It is recommended to work in split teams, alternating shifts and day to follow capacity and social distancing guidelines.
- Employees holding non-physical contact jobs (admin staff, secretaries, knowledge jobs, etc.) should continue to work remotely in phase 1 if possible.
- Permit flexible working hours for vulnerable employees or those who are concerned about being present in office locations for health reasons.
More guidelines regarding mental health, awareness, vulnerable groups, and money handling is available here.
Here's everything you need to know about the virus, including ways to protect yourself.
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Cover Image Credit: for illustrative purposes only