As the world is making peace with functioning amidst a global pandemic, economies are gradually opening up for business. However, despite the resumed activity, companies must still exercise caution with regard to employee safety. When reopening offices and factories, there need to be clear guidelines on how they intend to put the safety of their employees ahead of everything else.
If you have re-opened your SME, here are some tips on how you can do so safely:
1. Follow MHA guidelines strictly
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued detailed guidelines on how to restart manufacturing activity in India. Apart from mentioning the basic sanitization rules and social distancing norms, the guidelines also outline how to handle machinery and hazardous products safely after a period of non-use. Ensure you read all of these rules carefully and implement them for a safe working environment. Some of the most important rules to follow are:
- Carry out a safety audit of your factory to inspect all equipment, machinery, inventory, building condition, pipes, electrical wires and belts to ensure there is no damage.
- For an office space, ensure that electrical wires, fire safety and building conditions are intact.
- Sanitize the entire space before usage and make arrangements for routine sanitization.
- Put in place a well-designed shift mechanism for workers and employees to follow the social distancing norms.
- Create a plan in case any of your workers test positive for COVID-19.
2. Implement regular safety checks
Apart from ensuring a safe working space, monitor your employees’ health status every day. Have temperature checks every time an employee enters the premises, encourage self-reporting of symptoms, and make COVID testing accessible for potentially compromised employees.
3. Educate your workers and employees
When reopening business, your employees and workers need to be informed of all new safety measures you have incorporated. For this, create a detailed plan to teach all your employees about the illness, how to identify symptoms, basic hygiene and social distancing rules, and how to handle a possible emergency. Arrange recap sessions as frequently as possible to check their understanding of the situation. Wherever possible, encourage employees to work from home to minimize risk.
4. Avoid crowding
As much as possible, avoid crowding into spaces. Begin your factory or office at 25-40% of actual capacity and work in shifts. Reduce the number of meetings you hold – switch to tele meetings or phone calls and emails as much as possible.
5. Create the infrastructure for smooth transitioning
For businesses that can afford to work from home, ensure that all online infrastructure is in place to help your employees work efficiently. Provide internet support, better technology and updated software to facilitate this. For those who cannot work from home, such as workers on a factory floor, ensure that all safety norms are in place. Provide sanitizers at important checkpoints, distribute masks among workers, and encourage contactless pay. If possible, arrange transport for your workers and employees to provide them a safe means to commute to work.
6. Be accommodative
Despite following all the rules and safety standards, some employees or workers may just not be ready to come back to work. Be empathetic to their situation and try to incorporate their requests as much as possible. If they are not ready to return, offer alternatives instead of taking an extreme decision.
Although the concerns around COVID-19 pandemic have not yet subsided completely, many businesses across the world are choosing to reopen cautiously. From an economic and logical standpoint, it is not possible to remain closed indefinitely without compromising the sustainability of your business. Whenever you do decide to reopen your SME, ensure you take every safety precaution possible for your workers, employees and customers. A balanced approach to business continuity will improve trust among all stakeholders while allowing you to grow your business in present circumstance