What is Coronavirus(COVID-19)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans .1
COVID-19 is spread from infected person through direct contact with fluids like cough, sneeze or contaminated surfaces and articles .2
Employer’s obligations towards their employees in preventing and curbing COVID-19?
Employers are required to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all persons working in their workplaces 3. The global COVID-19 outbreak has been described as a pandemic by the WHO. In Kenya, the government is treating the outbreak as an urgent matter of public health concern. During this time an employer is required to:
- Provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the safety and health of its staff. This includes informing them of any imminent danger posed by the COVID-19;
- Carry out appropriate risk assessments in relation to the safety and health of its staff and, on the basis of these results, adopt preventive and protective measures to ensure that under all conditions of their intended use, all chemicals, machinery, equipment, tools and processes under the control of the employer are safe and without risk to health of its staff;
- take immediate steps to stop any operation or activity where there is an imminent and serious danger to safety and health and to evacuate all employees as appropriate; and among others,
- Provide suitable protective clothing and appliances, including, where necessary, suitable gloves, footwear, goggles and head coverings given that working during the COVID -19 outbreak may be construed as exposure to injurious substance/ environment. 4
An employers is forbidden from dismissing an employee who makes a complaint or raises a concern regarding what is safe or is of risk to their health more so regarding COVID-195 .
Likewise, an employer might be found liable for unfairly terminating a contract of employ-ment with its employee if the reasons for termination such an employee was because of a medical condition e.g. contracting COVID -19 or for raising concerns regarding the risks and possible exposure to contracting COVID -196 . The law requires that adequate notice be given to such an employee.
If an employer proceeds to terminate the contract of employment due to physical incapac-itation and fails to follow fair procedure laid down in law rendered the termination of the claimant’s services on medical grounds unfair.
Employees participation is crucial in the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the COV-ID-19. By law, during such times an employee is required to:
- Ensure their own safety and health and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at the workplace;
- Co-operate with their employer or any other person in the discharge of any duty or requirement imposed on the employer in obedience of government officials or the law all though as efforts are being made to stop the spread of the virus;
- At all times wear or use any protective equipment or clothing provided by the employer for the purpose of preventing risks to his safety and health;
- Comply with the safety and health procedures, requirements and instructions given by a person having authority over him for his own or any other person’s safety;
- Report to the supervisor, any situation which he has reason to believe would present a hazard and which he cannot correct;
Preventive measures an employer should take
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans .
COVID-19 is spread from infected person through direct contact with fluids like cough, sneeze or contaminated surfaces and articles .
- Provide clean and well maintained hand washing facilities.
- Clean hands at the door and schedule hand washing reminders by email
- Offer alcohol-based hand sanitizers when regular facilities are not available (or to field staff and those on the road).
- Regularly clean objects that are touched frequently, such as doorknobs, handles, railings, kettles, etc. more often with regular disinfectants or soap and water and assigning specific staff to do so.
- Provide sufficient boxes of tissues and encourage their use.
- Remind staff to not share cups, glasses, dishes and cutlery. Specific staff to be assigned responsibilities to ensure dishes are washed in soap and water after use.
- Remove magazines and papers from waiting areas or common rooms (such as tea rooms and kitchens).
- Make sure ventilation systems are working properly. Workplaces may contact DOSHS-Approved Air Quality Monitors to verify the status of the air quality. Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning.
- Clean workstations or other areas where they have been if a person has been suspected or identified with an infection.
- Limit all forms of employee gathering