COVID 19 has marked our lives with a brutal disruption of global activity. And it has been 3 months since the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus paralyzed companies not considered essential services, generating in many cases liquidity and profitability problems.
In this month of June we are in another moment, in this phase, little by little ¨ we are returning to a life that was stopped in March, reopening businesses and the paralyzed rhythm of the cities. In this new normal, we have demonstrated in record time our ability to change habits assuming as common, among other things, wearing a mask or avoiding physical contact.
In order for companies to be able to resume their physical activity, overcoming the teleworking stage, it is necessary to implement the ¨Work protocols against Covid 19¨.
What are the basic aspects for the development of a contingency protocol against COVID 19?
Next, we will highlight the basic aspects that must be addressed in the development of our contingency protocol, which is a surveillance, prevention and control plan against covid 19:
Recommendations for the health care of our collaborators based on their personal characteristics, level of risk they assume in the workplace and contact with people
Good practices for cleaning, disinfection of facilities and use of protective equipment.
Communication measures of established protocols
Action against a possible case of contagion.
And some other particularities and protection measures depending on, among others: the economic sector that the companies operate, the processes developed, the positions and the different types of facilities.
The plans are personalized for each company and require analysis of its own characteristics: activity, sector, personnel, jobs, level of exposure, processes and products.
The implementation of the COVID Protocols fits perfectly in quality circles
Steps to follow in the development of a contingency protocol against Coronavirus
Assessing the risk of exposure and contagion
Depending on the sector, the nature of the activities, the transmission mechanisms of the SARSCoV-2 coronavirus and whether the occupational contact with symptomatic people is close or not, we can establish 3 levels of risk or exposure scenarios in which to frame the different jobs and each of the scenarios correspond, in turn, to different prevention and protection measures.
Low probability of exposure
Workers without direct attention to the public, or more than 2 meters away, or with collective protection measures that avoid contact, for example, administrative personnel without contact with the client
Medium Risk Exposure
Personnel whose work activity includes some contact but who is mitigated by protective measures, for example, a hotel receptionist who is protected with a mask, gloves and a protective screen
High risk exposure
Those work situations in which there may be close contact with a probable or confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 infection, symptomatic or contact with residues that could be infected, among them would be cleaning personnel and health personnel
To do the risk analysis of workers, it will help us to know Law 31/1995, of November 8, on Occupational Risk Prevention and RD 664/1997, of May 12, on the protection of workers against related risks with exposure to biological agents and all of this applied judiciously to the particular circumstances of our company and sector of activity.
When evaluating your own risk pyramid, take into account
Identify the causes that originate the risk
Define the frequency / probability
Rate criteria for assessing consequences
Determine the degree of risk of exposure and contagion according to the evaluation scales
Depending on the result of our risk exposure analysis, we must establish protective equipment for the different positions. I attach an example of this same industrial company to which the risk analysis pyramid corresponds
In the analysis of risk of exposure to Covid 19, we cannot forget to evaluate the presence of collaborators in our companies of especially sensitive or vulnerable people, in this group they would be;
¨In the case of especially sensitive people, it does not imply that they should automatically take time off work. As far as possible we must take special care of them with the use of protection systems. Likewise, if the level of exposure is important, an attempt should be made to place them in an alternative job, with a lower level of exposure. If it is not possible to relocate them, contact the health authorities or PRL technician so that they can analyze and prepare a report of measures regarding this especially vulnerable collaborator¨
In the event that in our companies some of the functions were subcontracted, for example, cleaning, we must ensure that the supplier knows our protocols and that they provide the personnel with relevant protective equipment and the information and training necessary to strictly comply with the protocol.
It would be convenient for you to sign a document confirming your knowledge of our protocol, as well as your commitment to comply with it.
Plan actions to mitigate risk
The planning measures that must exist in our protocols to prevent the spread and contagion of Covid 19 in our companies could be summarized in the following graph:
Specifically, the measures to be included in the COVID protocols to resume the activity in our companies avoiding the exposure and / or spread of COVID 19, among others, would be:
Guide the start-up of a risk management committee, which must be made up of the legal representative and the representative of the workers deemed appropriate (they must expressly accept their membership)
Ensure that especially sensitive personnel and all personnel showing symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or the like, do not go to work while staying at home.
If the worker has had close contact with a symptomatic sick person, they will be kept in home quarantine for 14 days and passively monitor the appearance of symptoms.
Minimize contact between workers and clients by increasing the distances between them (2 meters). For this and when necessary, the corresponding capacity control must be carried out and if this is not possible, the necessary protective measures and equipment must be guaranteed. Avoid greeting with physical contact, including shaking hands, both to other staff and customers.
Establish special hours and shifts to reduce the number of male and female workers present at the same time at workplaces, giving preference if possible to teleworking.
Increase cleaning and disinfection tasks by performing them several times each working day.
Disinfect workstations where the space is shared, perform hygiene and disinfection at the end of the day, for example, in a reception
Make available to each worker the appropriate PPE according to the level of risk
Ensure that workers have easy access to soap and water, providing time and means for proper hand hygiene.
Distribute hydroalcoholic gels for hand hygiene, disposable paper for drying and wastebaskets in the workplace. The bins will contain a closable bag and lid. It is convenient that they have a pedal opening mechanism.
Increase ventilation ratios of the spaces, at least daily and more frequently whenever possible, of the different areas
After completing any cleaning or waste-generating work, the protective equipment and materials used will be disposed of safely in the bins enabled for the deposit and its subsequent management, proceeding after each service to wash hands
Train workers in the content of the protocols and in the use of Epis, especially in its placement and removal and on specific prevention measures, leaving a record of this training
Correctly maintain, store, use and dispose of Epis
Plan the tasks and work processes in such a way that the safety distance established by the health authorities is guaranteed; the arrangement of workstations, the organization of the movement of people and the distribution of spaces (furniture, shelves, corridors, etc.) in the workplace must be adapted if necessary.
Establish rules for the use of the facilities in which the work takes place and the shared spaces to maintain the safety distance (eg in elevators, dining rooms, entrances, terraces and other common areas).
Communicate and disseminate expressly making known to all workers and clients of the contingency plan and the importance and legal obligation to communicate the appearance of symptoms, communicating the hygiene guidelines with complete, clear and intelligible information on the hygiene regulations to be used in the job, before, during and after it, which may be supported by posters
Implementing the established measures
Taking action based on the risk analysis and the actions planned for the workers, establish guidelines that minimize the possibility of contagion from the workers.
Low probability of exposure:
Ensure the implementation and monitoring of hygiene measures
Frequent hand washing.
Ensure the existence of liquid soap dispensers and paper for drying hands
When there is no possibility of washing hands with soap and water, provide an alcohol-based disinfectant.
Ensure the existence of bins lined with garbage bags
Inform about preventive measures and limit the capacity of access to the facilities
Limit face-to-face and face-to-face contact
Delimitation and maintenance of distance at counters and service windows
The use of PPE is not necessary, although the use of a mask is recommended as required by law
Training and information
Medium probability of exposure and contagion
All of the above including training and information
Implement physical separation barriers: use of intercoms, windows, methacrylate partitions, transparent curtains
High probability of exposure and contagion
All of the above
Additional protection systems, such as the use of protective clothing or footwear
Training and additional information to staff on the use and disposal of Epis and any other specific preventive measures for their high or very high risk level
Control and maintenance of safety routines will be intensified for all personnel, especially with regard to hygiene measures, exposure and reduction of exposure to possible outbreaks. In addition, all facilities must periodically review the ventilation systems and, where appropriate, install high-efficiency filters and visual information (posters, brochures, etc.) will be placed in strategic places.
Regarding the risks of the processes and the implementation of specific measures, it would require a specific post by economic sector. My recommendation is that you analyze the regulations and if your union or the public sector has made specific recommendations for that specific area.
Part of the “doing” process includes generating evidence and records of what is happening; For example, keep temperature control charts for workers or establish a section in the personnel file where it is determined if that person is especially sensitive to contagion and exposure by Covid 19.
Verification and improvement
Monitoring is essential to be able to ensure the effectiveness of the actions implemented.
What are the ways of verification.
Review, verify, audit, supervise and in case it is not being fulfilled, retrain and change what does not work well.
Generate evidence of the work that is being carried out, for example, cleaning and disinfection records, this serves us for internal control and to demonstrate to the authorities and supervisory entities that we are complying
Signature by workers and clients of a document where they claim to know our protocol; This in addition to security will allow us to derive responsibility in the event of contagion if there has been negligence on your part in complying with our protocol.
Have metrics and dashboards that allow you to monitor what is happening and this review to be carried out periodically
Have a risk management committee, which, in addition to designing the protocols, periodically evaluates whether they are being met and whether it is achieving the objectives set.
Establish mechanisms that ensure the permanent updating of the risk assessment, especially with regard to the classification of workers according to the level of risk and the application of the corresponding preventive measures.
My experience as a quality expert who has implemented processes and certifications in many companies is that sometimes we think that by having the protocols written, we are already ensuring compliance and doing things right. The reality is that writing begins, but if we do not act in accordance with them and their follow-up is evaluated in one way or another, everything will have remained on paper and we will be very far from the objective that is to avoid the contagion and spread Covid 19 in our companies and in society in general
One of the ways that contagion by Covid 19 is manifested is when the infected person has a fever, but for the company to do so it must take into account certain considerations
It will be used with systems that do not require contact temperature control of the workers who come to their jobs by means of non-contact digital thermometers and scanners.
The treatment of the data obtained from the temperature measurements must respect the data protection regulations applying the existing limitations in the Law on the prevention of occupational risks in relation to the personnel with the capacity to control these biometric data
The art. 22.6 LPRL, it is clear “The surveillance and control measures of the workers’ health will be carried out by health personnel with technical competence, training and accredited capacity.” In line with this precept, art. 37.3 a) of Royal Decree 39/1997, of January 17, which approves the Regulation of Prevention Services (RSP).
Communication of the protocols against Covid 19
It is necessary; Customers, suppliers, workers and any collaborator have to know the actions that the company is taking to avoid the contagion and spread of Covid 19.
The way of communicating can be through personal notifications to clients and workers, being convenient that they sign them as an acceptance of the guidelines established in the company. There is another way of communicating that it is by displaying posters in our facilities.
The posters can be created by us, which can be expensive. The health authorities have created a very well designed billboard on generic topics such as hand washing, which can be displayed royalty free.
On the other hand, there is the possibility of creating personalized signage, through a personalized covid signage web page
How to act in case of contagion of coronavirus from any of the workers and clients?
The spread of the virus is invisible, and as a result, it is possible for someone to inadvertently expose themselves to another person who is already infected with COVID 19; therefore it is important to do everything possible to detect and identify clients, workers and suppliers that may be infected.
Any person infected, whether a worker or clients, or with symptoms or who has been in contact with someone infected, will be obliged to:
Isolate yourself and not go to work.
Communicate that you are affected, at work and to the health authorities
Comply with the guidelines established in your case
If possible provide the list of people at work with whom you have been in contact
If one of the workers is infected, their workplace must be cleaned and detoxified
Some countries require workers to sign an affidavit of not having symptoms and not being infected before entering the job.
How to act if you are sick at work?
Immediately notify the management or person in charge, informing the workers with whom you have been in contact.
Immediately, the worker will leave the workplace and will follow the recommendations that the Health Authorities have indicated for such cases.
Actions in the company must consist of ventilating well the space in which the patient has been separated and cleaning the work surfaces with which they have come into contact (table, chair, keyboard …).
Maintain a protocol for monitoring the patient so that in case of detecting a positive in coronavirus COVID 19, the health authority is immediately notified, which will establish the quarantine or closure procedure of the company
A complicated decision for governments that have had to choose between health, including the lives of their citizens, and the health of their companies and their economy. I want to think that this is already happening and that the time has come little by little to resume our lives and the activity of our companies, which implies an enormous sensitivity and responsibility of the entire population to do so following what is marked by the health authority.
In the case of companies, these guidelines for action and mandatory compliance are established in the protocol for action against Covid 19, a protocol that must be disseminated, providing training to all personnel for strict compliance.