Qatar started its four-phased gradual lifting of restrictions plan last June 15, with parks, mosques, and shops in malls reopened albeit restricted. However, for Phase 1, 80% of the workforce is still recommended to work from home. For those that are returning to work during this phase, here are the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Public Health on how to ensure the safe and gradual return of employees to work. These precautionary measures will help prevent the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the workplace.
Before returning to work
COVID-19 Risk assessment and response plan
- Develop and update a COVID-19 response plan to deal with suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and specify what is to be done if an employee displays symptoms during working hours.
- Conduct a risk assessment on health and safety before any return to the workplace, and put in place relevant measures to ensure the health and safety of employees in line 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.
- A log of all participants in any group activity or service that require multiple staff is kept to facilitate contact tracing if needed.
- Consider completing a return to work form for all employees before resuming duties.
A designated employee who will act as a Compliance Officer must be appointed. He/she will ensure the implementation and monitoring of all guidance, including social distancing and infection prevention and control.
- 1.5 meters minimum distance between staff during their work, or 9 meters square per person is recommended. In cases where distance cannot be maintained, the physical barriers must be used to separate employees.
- Reduce numbers of staff working onsite as per the guidance in each phase.
- Meetings during phase 1 should not have more than 5 people in the same room.
- Use floor and furniture markings to maintain appropriate social distancing.
- Avoid hot desking (i.e. use of the same desk by multiple employees).
- Remind employees of distancing requirements - Clear and visible signage.
Infection prevention and control
- All employees must undergo regular testing as per MOPH guidance (at employer cost).
- Hand sanitizer to be provided for employee use at several locations within the facilities
- Measure the temperature of employees and patients on arrival. Set up a separate pathway for patients with temperature more than 38 degrees as per COVID-19 protocols.
- Frequent hand washing/sanitizing should be promoted.
- Face Masks to be worn by employees at all times.
- Wearing disposable gloves is not routinely recommended as per MOPH protocol and needs to be replaced after every patient encounter.
- Avoid handshakes and all forms of physical greetings that require touching or coming close.
- 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 ensure premises do not become overcrowded.
- Thermal screening of employees, and visitors (entry prohibited for those over 38 degrees).
- EHTERAZ App to be downloaded by all employees, and visitors, and check that the status is green to allow entry.
Working hours and remote working
- 20% of employees to work on-site while 80% to work remotely where applicable.
- Consider working in split teams, alternating shifts, or alternating days to comply with capacity and social distancing guidance.
- Employees holding non-physical contact jobs (admin staff, secretaries, knowledge jobs, etc.) should continue to work remotely in phase 1 if possible.
What about vulnerable employees?
- Allow flexible working hours for vulnerable employees or those who are concerned about being present in office locations for health reasons.
- Employees over the age of 60 should be advised to work from home and delay return to work locations until phase 4 if possible.
- Employees who are pregnant, those with chronic conditions, or those with increased health risks should be advised to work from home and delay return to work locations until phase 4 if possible.
- Consider requiring the completion of a return to Work Form for vulnerable employees.
Mental health awareness
Advise employees who may be experiencing stress or anxiety related to COVID19 guidance to contact the mental health hotline 16000.
Education and awareness
- Communicate clearly and early with managers and employees on plans to reopen and any new guidance or policies that will be introduced.
- Keep employees updated on COVID-19 safety and prevention information and guidelines.
- The emphasis that protecting public health is paramount.
- Use MOPH health messages and materials. Let customers know what steps you are taking to keep them safe.
- It is important to remind workers that wearing face masks does not preclude the need to keep a physical distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other.
- Minimize any cash transactions in work locations.
- Wipe down credit card readers and other payment methods after each use.
Note: To be updated with new guidelines as we progress into the next phases.
Source: Ministry of Public Health
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