In Order to curb Covid 19 possible massive infection, Uganda Manufacturers Association(UMA) and Ministry of Health have developed and released Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide their members in making work-places safe for themselves and their stakeholders.
Daniel Birungi the UMA Executive Director disclosed this to the press at their office in Lugogo, Kampala.
“ Recognizing that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, the Uganda Manufacturers Association has gone ahead to develop SOPs contained in a booklet to guide our members in making work-places safe for themselves and their stakeholders” he said.
Birungi added “with the rise in COVID 19 infections, however, these workplaces can turn into likely sources of infection with COVID-19 given that factory premises feature high concentrations of people who are continually interacting either directly or through their work processes”.
He said the SOPs are designed to help employers: reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection transmission among employees and their families, reduce the likelihood of disruptions to business operations as a result of COVID 19 infection within factories, and maintain a healthy work environment.
The UMA Executive director applauded the Ministry of Health for working with them to produce these SOPs and GIZ Creating Perspectives Project for assisting us to train the companies on the SOPS. UMA has so far trained over 350 employees in 43 companies. The companies have also formed Covid-19 task forces.
Birungi also said they have also produced booklets with these SOPs and model COVID 19 policies to assist manufacturers to replicate them to suit their work environments. Other sensitization messages are on the UMA website where members are free to access and share to their employees.
The developed SOPs
For ease of implementation of the SOPs by companies, they are categorized in ten sections namely:
Information Dissemination; Protection of Employees, Customers and Visitors; Screening; Handling Employees who Test Positive for COVID-19; Disinfection; Instituting a Workplace Covid-19 Task Force; Establishing a Workplace Covid-19 policy; Transportation of Staff to and from Work; Social Distancing and Training.
Birungi said UMA urges her member companies and all businesses to appoint taskforces with representatives from management and employees to spearhead the implementation of these SOPs to tackle the increasing infection of Covid19.
SOP 1:Information Dissemination
- Talk with the employees about planned changes in the operations of the workplace and seek their input.
- Monitor local public health communications about COVID-19 regulations, guidance and recommendations from the Ministry of Health and ensure that workers have access to that information.
- Provide information about COVID-19 at various places within the work premises and through different channels. Where posters are available, ensure these are displayed in places where everybody can access them.
- Conduct regular education sessions for employees to follow the recommended preventive actions in their places.
SOP 2: Protection of Employees, Customers and Visitors.
- Workers, customers and visitors must wear masks that cover their mouths and nose in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain. They should preferably wear clean reusable type of mask that can contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets and help protect their co-workers and members of the general public.
- Wearing a mask does not replace the need to practice physical and social distancing (at least 6 feet) from others when possible.
- Washhands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Inform employees that if their hands are visibly dirty, they should use soap and water instead of hand sanitizer. Key times for employees to clean their hands include:
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the restroom
- Before eating or preparing food
- After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face masks and other coverings
- Install no-touch systems to operate hand washing and sanitizing equipment.
- Avoid hand shaking, touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of their elbow. Throw used tissues into no-touch trash cans and immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- The Compliance Officers should ensure that all the above recommended preventive measures are adhered to at the workplace.
- Purchase a hand held temperature gun and ensure that it is properly calibrated.
- Check the temperature of every one who needs to access the premises.
- Ensure all employees have their temperature taken whenever they are getting into the premises and recorded in a non-discardable book.
- The persons who take the temperature should be well protected with face masks and/or face shield.
- They should be oriented on the implications of the temperature readings.
- Any readings that are below the normal body temperature (36- 37.5) may mean that the temperature gun may not be properly calibrated and should therefore be checked.
- Anybody who has a temperature reading above 38 degrees should be held at the entrance and the temperature taken again after 10 minutes. The temperature taker should also request to know what activity the person has been engaged in before coming to the premises. Please note that any physical activity may raise the body temperature and will reduce when the person stops.
- If the temperature consistently remains at 38, the Emergency Response Team should be summoned to take over and conduct further tests on the person.
SOP 4:Handling Employees who Test Positive for COVID-19
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Discuss with them the challenges that may make it difficult for them to stay at home [challenges in accommodation which may limit self-isolation, others may depend on the daily earnings for survival].
- Sick employees should follow MOH recommendedguidelinesfor Home Based Isolation and Care. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolationare met, in consultation with healthcare providers.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor so that they are tested or monitored.
- Employees who appear to have symptomsupon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors, and referred to the ERT for further management before being sent home.
- Have a procedure in place for the safe transport of an employee who becomes sick while at work. The employee may need to be transported home or to a healthcare provider.
- Conduct a thorough hazard assessment of the workplace to identify workplace hazards related to Covid-19 that are present, or are likely to be present, and determine what type of controls or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed before employees are allowed access.
- Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
- Provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
- Ideally, place touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
- Place posters and other information education and communication materials that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread of COVID-19 at the entrance to your workplace and in other areas where they are likely to be seen. This should include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.
- If surfaces are visibly dirty, clean them using a detergent or soap and water before you disinfect them.
- Discourage workers from using each other’s phones, desks, offices, or other work tools such as pens and equipment, when possible.
- Provide disposable disinfecting wipes so that employees can wipe down commonly used surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks, other work tools and equipment) before each use.
- Store and use disinfectants in a responsible and appropriate manner according to the label.
- Advise employees to always wear gloves and masks appropriate for the chemicals being used when they are cleaning and disinfecting.
- Note that they may need additional PPE based on the recommendation of the producer of the chemicals.
- Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility:
SOP 6: Institute a Workplace Covid-19 Task Force
- Companies must institute a Covid task force with representatives from management and workers
- Every workplace must select one or several of their own employees who should be trained as a Compliance Officer to coordinate all the COVID- 19 preventive actions.
- The Compliance Officers may be identified with a specific uniform or badge for ease of identification by anyone.
- The Compliance officers will conduct regular sensitization sessions for all staff, monitor compliance with all preventive actions at the place of work, contact the District Task force in case of emergency
- Each place of work must establish an Emergency Response team (ERT) that is trained to take on any person who show symptoms of sickness (e.g.consistently high temperature)
- The team must be taken through training to be able to provide emergency care to any person who has been identified with symptoms.
- The ERT should have a specific identified space/room where any person who is suspected to be sick will be held and monitored before contacting the Response team from the District for further management.
- The ERT should have contacts of the Districtof Ministry of Health Response team that is visibly displayed in the emergency room.
SOP 7:Establish a Workplace Covid-19 policy
- Establish and communicate supportive workplace polices clearly, frequently, and via multiple methods. Employers may need to communicate with non-English speakers in their preferred languages.
- Train workers on how implementing any new policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 may affect existing health and safety practices.
- Older employees and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes may be required to work from home or other place that limits their exposure to infection.
- Communicate to any contractors or visitors about changes that have been made to help control the spread of COVID-19. Ensure that they have the information and capability to comply with those policies.
- Create and test communication systems that employees can use to self-report if they are sick and that you can use to notify employees of exposures and closures.
- Consider using a hotline or another method for employees to voice concerns anonymously.
- Minimize the number of workers present at worksites by resuming business operations in phases, balancing the numbers that are allowed to report to work at different times.
- Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children
- Cross-train employees to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent.
SOP 8: Transportation to and from work
- Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others (e.g. biking, walking, driving or riding by car either alone or with household members).
- If they do not have personal transport, advise them to use preventive actions especially proper use of face mask whenever they are using public transportation.
- Some companies may provide common transportation for their employees to reduce interaction with the general public. In this vehicle, social distancing must be maintained by only carrying half of the capacity of the vehicle
- Ensure that there is an identified means of transportation for employees who fall sick at the place of work to the nearest health facility.
- Minimize non-essential travel.
- Offer flexible options such as telework to employees. This will eliminate the need for employees living in higher transmission areas to travel to workplaces in lower transmission areas and vice versa.
- Ask employees to clean their hands as soon as possible after getting out of the vehicle.
SOP # 9 :Social Distancing
- Establish policies and practices for social distancing. Alter your workspace to help workers and customers maintain social distancing and physically separate employees from each other and from customers, when possible.
- Implement flexible work hours (e.g., rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time).
- Increase physical space between employees at the worksite by modifying the workspace.
- Increase physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive-through service, physical barriers such as partitions).
- Use signs, tape marks, or other visual cues such as colored tape on the floor, placed 2 metes (6 feet) apart, to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible.
- Implement flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events .
- Minimize risk to employees when planning meetings and gatherings by use of videoconferencing or teleconferencing(Zoom or Gomeeting) when possible for work-related meetings.
- Cancel, adjust, or postpone large work-related meetings or gatherings that can only occur in-person.
- When videoconferencing or teleconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces continuing to maintain a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) apart and wear masks
- Close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact.
- Train/educate staff on various preventive options that are available and how they can be utilized, for example hand washing facilities. Do not assume that they will know these on their own.
For further information and assistance contact UMA members are advised to contact the nearest District Health Office or the Ministry of Health on toll free line 0800 100066. UMA has 1200 members registered as companies.
However Joseph Kyarimpa the UMA training and Projects said when they visited some factories in may they discovered that their members have social distancing challenges and suggested that casual workers take up a shift working model to reduce congestion and observe social distancing.
Birungi has also appealed to government to wave off taxes to the affected companies as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. He said some companies were terribly struggling and deserve tax waivers not tax deferrals.