2020-03-04 17:08:16

article1Daljeet Kaur Lal

COVID-19: What is an HR's Role in Preventing the Disease at Workplace?

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Guidelines to Corporates in handling Coronavirus Spread.

With the rampant spread of COVID-19 caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) across the world, a Human Resource Professional's role is significant in safeguarding a company or an organization from spreading the illness, without causing panic among employees. 

Before getting into the role of HR in handling the COVID 19 outbreak at the workplace, you need to educate yourself about the situation and details of the epidemic. This will help you in effectively handling the situation and take preventive measures. Here is all that you need to know about COVID 19 CoronaVirus. 

What is Coronavirus? 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. 

What is COVID 19? 

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Symptoms of CORONA/COVID 19 

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are; 

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Dry cough. 
  • Some patients may have aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat or diarrhea.

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Who is most affected by COVID 19? 

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. Therefore, people with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention. 

COVID 19 Statistics

The coronavirus COVID-19 has affected 81 countries and territories around the world and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan).

The epidemic CoronaVirus has so far reported cases of 94,208 people affected and 3,219 fatalities in which China (2,981), South Korea (33), Italy (79), and Iran (92) have the most number of deaths. Check for the latest Coronavirus updates and statistics

While, the scientists still aren’t entirely sure how the virus is transmitted, and, for now, there is no vaccine to guard against it. Government agencies and pharmaceutical companies are working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, but it will be months before one is ready. 

COVID -19 in the UAE 

The UAE reported a case of the virus on 29 January. Later, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention revealed two new cases diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing the total number to seven in the country. But now, the number has sadly risen to a whopping 27 cases, five of whom have recovered. 

WHO's Guideline for Employers 

To stop the spread of disease in countries where the cases of CoronaVirus reported, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidelines for employers. UAE has welcomed this new guideline calling upon organizations everywhere to be proactive and start adopting preventive measures to check the spread of novel coronavirus, even if it has not arrived in the communities where you operate. 

What is your responsibility as an HR in Controlling COVID-19?

If you're a Human Resource professional with a company, business, organization, or Institute, your responsibility lies in addressing critical situations such as CoronaVirus Epidemic with utmost care. 

Through corporate training, you can share accurate information with your employees about coronavirus. You can maintain good order and protect the organization against potential liability.

You can share authentically reliable information with employees to ensure they’re relying on facts, not hearsay. So as to avoid the spread of misinformation, HR should endeavor to ensure that employees aren’t sharing false information or gossiping about others. 

Here are some of the precautionary measures which you can implement and ensure that everyone follows it. 

How to Get Your Workplace Ready to Prevent COVID-19? 

  • Educate and Create Awareness 

There’s obviously a huge responsibility on business and HR directors to keep employees safe at work. However, you can’t control every move your employees make, especially in larger companies. So, how can you encourage staff to invest more in their own workplace safety?

For those illnesses that can’t be completely avoided, it’s important to educate employees on how to avoid potential risks. Make them aware of the symptoms of novel Coronavirus (nCoV) such as Cough, Shortness of breath, Sore throat, Headache, and Fever. Consider the best way to offer health and safety training. 

So, would you consider on-site or classroom training to be most effective?  The choice is yours!

The easier you can make it for them to participate, the greater the engagement you’ll achieve.

  • Ensure Workplace Hygiene

Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygiene. When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables, or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. 

You must ensure cleanliness at the workplace by regularly wiping the surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) with disinfectant. 

  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing 

As a Human Resource professional, you have the responsibility to ensure your employees, contractors and customers do not take chances in spreading illnesses. Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace and, make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled. You could even display posters promoting hand-washing at the workplace. 

Despite all these measures, you may find some people hesitant to follow instructions. In such cases, you can combine other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings, and information on the intranet to promote hand-washing. 

When you encourage hand washing to make sure that staff, contractors, and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water.

  • Issue Travel Restrictions

With a global death toll of 3,000 reported the most affected countries after China are: South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan. Cases of Covid-19 have now been confirmed in 77 countries and territories. More than 130 cases have been reported in other countries across the Middle East, with Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Egypt reporting new cases.

Make sure your organization and its employees have the latest information on areas where COVID-19 is spreading. UAE Government banned traveling to places from Kuwait and Bahrain. While Dubai Airports implemented strict screening measures and conducts medical check-ups for passengers as precautionary measures against coronavirus. 

Based on the latest information, your organization should assess the benefits and risks related to upcoming travel plans.

  • Issue travel restrictions to places where the cases of CoronaVirus have been reported. 
  • Avoid sending employees who may be at higher risk of serious illness (e.g. older employees and those with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease) to areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
  • Make sure all persons traveling to locations reporting COVID-19 are briefed by a qualified professional (e.g. staff health services, health care provider or local public health partner). 
  • Consider issuing employees who are about to travel with small bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This can facilitate regular hand-washing. 
  • Closely monitor travel advisories for any further updates.
  • Set Clear Guidelines

Review your company’s illness and absence policies and remind employees about them. Do not let people come back to work sick. Set clear guidelines to them stating "If you have a cough, a cold, upper-respiratory-illness symptoms, don't come to work.” Do not take chances. If possible, allow them to work from home. 

If you have employees returning from an area where COVID-19 is spreading, instruct them to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day. If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 37.3 C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (one meter or nearer) with other people, including family members.

Counsel employees to consider not to shake hands during meetings or events. You can limit in-person meetings when possible, have hand sanitizer widely available and remind folks to cough into handkerchiefs, not their hand. 

What else can you advise your employees to prevent the Corona outbreak?

  • Promote regular teleworking across your organization. 
  • Avoid public transport and crowded places if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in areas where your employees stay. 
  • Cancel all public events and avoid mass gatherings such as (religious events, prayers, and functions)

COVID 19 Immediate Measures an HR should take

  • As an HR professional, you should have a plan ready to deploy should any major outbreak wreak havoc on company operations. Such a plan should be created in partnership with other departments, including risk management, finance, and IT. 
  • If an employee has contracted coronavirus, contact the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the local health department immediately and take immediate measures to clean and disinfect the workplace. Other employees should be notified and the company should consider allowing employees to expensive medical tests for detecting the virus.
  • Companies must proceed carefully, taking care to ensure their policies for dealing with coronavirus don’t unwittingly discriminate against a protected class of people of Asian descent. While the risk of discrimination is likely small, employers must be aware of this fact.

Remember:

Now is the time to prepare for COVID-19. Simple precautions and planning can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees and your business.

Begin implementing control measures for each hazard you find. Sometimes this will mean completely removing the threat, but in a lot of cases this isn’t possible, so it’s about minimizing the chance of risk as much as possible. If you don’t have effective Human Resource Management in place, it’s time to get it. 

To minimize the risk, you need to have a team of skilled and trained HR professionals and Office Administrators in place. A robust talent acquisition strategy will benefit your organization when you hire an HR professional who is certified in HR Courses in Dubai. Talent acquisition is an ongoing strategy to find specialists, leaders, or future executives for your company. If you feel, you don't have the necessary skills to handle emergencies, it's the right time to upgrade with special HR Training in Dubai. 

article1Daljeet Kaur Lal

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Daljeet Kaur Lal is an HR Trainer who has extensive work experience of over 11 years. She is now working with Edoxi Training Institute, Dubai. She develops and executes various HR training programs to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge to meet the organization's objectives.

She is passionate about learning new things. She enjoys spending her free time reading favourite books and listening to all-time favourite melodies in English and Hindi. She is also keenly involved in Adventurous activities and loves to travel a lot. 
 

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