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Covid-19 Legal Updates: MOH guidelines on measures for re-opening

In contemplation of the phasing out of the restriction on operations of most businesses in Trinidad and Tobago by the Government, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has published guidelines setting out recommended measures to be adopted by businesses (in both private and non-private sectors) upon their re-opening.  The measures proposed are intended to control and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

As the MOH recognises that it is impossible to give specific guidance which would be suitable to all businesses, the Guidelines recommend that businesses develop their own tailor-made plans (consistent with the Guidelines) and submit same to the County Medical Officers of Health (CMOH) for review and approval.  The Guidelines provide that, once a plan is approved, the Public Health Inspectorate will support the implementation of that plan in accordance with the existing legal framework (although it is unclear from the Guidelines what “support” from the Public Health Inspectorate in this context will entail).

The CMOHs and the Public Health Inspectorate will conduct site visits and inspect premises for the purposes of assessing, and reporting to the Chief Medical Officer on, compliance with the Guidelines.

Summary of primary recommendations from the MOH for businesses:

All persons must keep at least six feet away from each other (co-worker and member of the public). This should include:-

        • Setting work stations further apart or reducing the number of work stations in use at a given time;
        • Moving certain tasks or meeting to times or locations with fewer people present;
        • Controlling the number of persons entering the building or office,
        • Staggering work schedules so workers don’t crowd when they arrive or leave work.
        • Make provisions to prevent close contact between workers and others (e.g., co-workers and the public) when transferring items, tools, or materials. For example, require one at-a-time access at design at designated drop-off/pick-up points;
        • Ensure physical separation between customers by using dividers/ barriers or floor markings to distinguish appropriate spacing for people waiting in lines or in front of service counters;
        • Establishments with lanes and aisles should implement a one way system with fewer sale specialists;
        • Limit capacity in elevators to accommodate social distancing depending on the size of the elevator car;
        • Implement curb-side pickup, delivery or use of mail services where appropriate
        • Use one or more employee(s) as a “physical distance monitor” similar to a safety monitor to ensure social distancing practices are consistently followed.
        • Stagger break and lunch schedules to minimize occupancy; or limit and monitor occupancy based on the size and layout of the room;
        • Hold gatherings in larger spaces or outdoors where workers can easily spread out;
        • Set up rooms to facilitate appropriate distancing; for example, provide a limited number of chairs at appropriate distance apart;
        • Utilize virtual meetings and other communication methods instead of in-person meetings where feasible.

Sanitation -Frequent cleanings throughout the day, and not just at the end of the day should be done.

        • Establish a housekeeping schedule to incorporate routine cleaning with regular, frequent, and periodic cleaning during the day / night;
        • Provide appropriate and adequate cleaning supplies for scheduled and, when necessary, spot cleaning and cleaning after a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case;
        • Ensure floors, counters, and other surfaces are regularly cleaned with water and soap, or other cleaning liquids to prevent build-up of dirt and residues that can harbour contamination;
        • Ensure high-touch surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, handles, rails,telephone, desks, countertops) and shared spaces (lunch rooms, washrooms, change rooms, locker rooms) are properly disinfected on a frequent or periodic basis using a bleach solution using 5tablespoons (1/3 cup) per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water2or70% alcohol solutions or other EPA-approved disinfectant;
        • Ensure shared work vehicles are regularly cleaned and disinfected;
        • Ensure that contracted service providers are competent to clean and that they have arrangements in place regarding their workers’ health status;
        • Ensure employees follow effective cleaning procedures and use protective gloves and eye/face protection (e.g. face shields and/or goggles) when mixing, spraying, and wiping with liquid cleaning products, like diluted bleach.

Personal Hygiene

        • Provide adequate fixed or portable hand washing facilities or stations at workplaces and jobsites so employees and the general public /visitors / customers can wash their hands frequently with soap and hot and cold (or tepid) running water. Ideal to have easy open-close taps or pedal actuated or handsfree taps;
        • Endorse and encourage proper mask etiquette within the establishment;
        • Ensure an adequate supply of soap, water, and disposable towels; set up a schedule for frequent restocking of supplies and emptying of trash;
        • Require workers to wash hands frequently and effectively when they arrive at work, leave their workstations for breaks, use the bathroom; before and after they eat or drink or use tobacco products; and after touching any surfaces suspected of being contaminated.
        • Provide supplemental hand sanitizer(minimum content of 60% alcohol)stations, wipes or towelettes, or clean water and soap in portable containers to facilitate more frequent handwashing after handling objects touched by others;
        • PPE may be provided but also must be washed regularly to prevent the spread of the virus.

Procedures to address sick persons – Employers must establish procedures to:

        • Facilitate ill workers to stay home and seek medical attention if required;
        • After the ill person has vacate the establishment, ensure immediate and proper cleaning and sanitisation of the area;
        • Conduct daily COVID-19 symptoms checks of employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and visitors entering the worksite; for example, use a brief questionnaire or thermal scanning; and
        • Encourage workers to report concerns and use paid sick leave, using the guidance of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.

The use of Masks and PPE – the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) has issued specific guidelines advising on the proper use of masks and other PPE which include but are not limited to the following:

        • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
        • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask;
        • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
        • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks; and
        • To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Information and Health Education

Employee education, as well as education of the other persons utilising theestablishment,is important, and must be provided by employees in a manner in which they willunderstand. The risk must be communicated to them, and they must know the risk, signsand prevention of Covid-19. The information must be communicated through readablesigns and messages. Employees should also be able to provide feedback to help improvesafety at the establishment.

      • Promote healthy personal habits with high visibility signage and media campaigns.
      • Display posters promoting hand-washing, proper uses of mask and gloves–ask your local public health authority for these or look on
      • Implement communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings
      • Circulate information on the intranet to promote hand-washing and good hygiene measures such proper cough and sneezes etiquette.

 Guidelines for Specialised Establishments

      1. WHO Operational Considerations for Covid-19 Management in the Accommodation and Tourism Sector
      2. CDC guidelines on Manufacturing Workers and Employers

As of May 14th 2020, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)has issued Interim Guidance for manufacturing workers and employers. The manufacturing work environment entails the production of items through assembly lines and other areas, where workers have close contact with co-workers and supervisors and this may contribute substantially to workers’ potential exposures.

The details of these guidelines can be accessed through the following link:

      1. WHO Getting the Workplace Ready for COVID-19

This document gives advice on:

          • Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace;
          • How to manage COVID-19 risks when organizing meetings and events;
          • Things to consider when you and your employees travel; and
          • Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in your community.

These guidelines can be accessed by using the web links below:-

Disclaimer: This Document Provides General Guidance Only And Nothing In This Document Constitutes Legal Advice. Should You Require Specific Assistance, Please Contact Your Attorney-At-Law.
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