*MADLSA issues directions, warns of action in case of non-compliance

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs has issued directives that private sector companies must enforce at work places and workers’ accommodation in a bid to combat the novel coronavirus, and to complement the precautionary measures taken by the State.

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Among the directives are six-hour duty for workers in the construction sector and steps to raise the workers’ awareness of the procedures and the exchange of information.

These measures also include emphasis on reducing gatherings at places of work and residence and implementing safety measures to protect workers from the virus.

The Ministry stressed that employers should exchange information and increase workers’ awareness of the procedures adopted at the company and government levels on tackling Covid-19.

Other measures include:

*Taking the temperature of workers regularly and monitoring respiratory symptoms

*Observing good personal hygiene by reminding workers to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth with elbow if coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their faces

*Need for worker representatives/ welfare officers to communicate in the workers’ languages to encourage them to share information, ask questions, and verify information.

The Ministry said companies should increase the frequency of routine cleaning and sanitation of areas at work sites, accommodation, buses, bathrooms, kitchens, canteens and other places used by the workers; provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls and desks can be wiped down by the employees before each use.

The employers must also ensure social gatherings are limited to the minimum; stagger entry and exit of workers from the workplace; reduce population density in the workplace and accommodation by ensuring the number of people in a room is limited to four; prohibit all in-person meetings that are not essential and limit internal movement as much as possible; suspend all training events; and restrict the use of common spaces such as canteens and changing rooms to a limited number of workers at one time in line with the guidelines of the Ministry of Public Health.

MADLSA also underlined the importance of enhancing the role of occupational safety and health officers and management to supervise workers and to ensure that protective measures are applied, in particular performing a risk assessment to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the disease; working with public health authorities to develop a plan to identify suspected cases and contacts with Covid-19 in workplaces and manage them properly; assessing the impact on mental health (for example, anxiety about job and income security, about the risk of contracting the disease, and the situation of their family members in their home countries).

The Ministry further stressed the importance of providing psychological and social support to infected employees after recovery, checking the workers’ temperature before they take the company buses to and from the workplace, isolating any worker with a high temperature and reporting to the Ministry of Public Health hotline on the number 16000.

The employers have been urged to follow up the health of workers and provide additional precautionary measures to those who are the most vulnerable to infection, such as those with chronic diseases (diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases).

The Ministry’s directives also said buses transporting workers must limit intake to 50% or less of its seating capacity, ensure masks and hand sanitisers are available in the workplace, make sure there are no gatherings inside the workplace and that a safe distance between workers is kept at all time, and give attention to other safety and health risks in the workplace.

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs said that the Labour Inspection Department will monitor employers’ compliance with strict inspection campaigns, adding that failure to comply will result in penalties.

Employers failing to report suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection will be subjected to the penalties stipulated in Law No. 9 of 2020 amending some provisions of Decree Law No.17 of 1990 regarding the prevention of infectious diseases, the Ministry added.