Expert Contribution: New Guidelines for COVID-19 Protocols at Workplaces.
In the past days, the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) published New Guidelines for COVID-19 Protocols at Workplaces. These guidelines apply to all of Mexico. The purpose of these guidelines is to establish the specific measures that business activities must implement within the framework of the general strategy for the New Normality, in order to ensure the continuity of work activities in a safe and responsible manner. This document was prepared with the coordinated participation of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Economy and the Mexican Social Security Institute. It also includes a general checklist to help workplaces identify the necessary measures to be implemented, training resources (CLIMSS) and advice from the IMSS.
It is recommended that workplaces implement control strategies to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Health promotion in companies involves orientation, training, and organization of workers to prevent and control the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their homes and, more importantly, at social events and during company-provided public or private transportation, including the following:
- Provide general information about SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the mechanisms of transmission, symptoms it causes, and the best ways to prevent infection and transmission to others.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use 60% alcohol-based solutions.
- Practice respiratory etiquette: cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or the inside corner of your arm.
- Maintain a healthy distance (at least 1.5 meters).
- Establish a training program for management personnel on actions and measures to prevent and avoid COVID-19 infection chains, which can make use of the material available on the platform. In workplaces Actions should be implemented to reduce the risk of contagion, i.e., to prevent the virus from entering their facilities. These include hygiene, cleanliness and safe distance.
- Safe distance in the workplace. It is suggested to favor a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between people;
- Provide dispensers with 60% alcohol-based solutions available to personnel at different points in the workplace.
- Ensure that restrooms have sinks and adequate conditions for cleaning of personnel.
- Establish a permanent cleaning and maintenance program for the work center and workplaces, including food services, rest areas and, if necessary, overnight stays, using appropriate cleaning products to prevent the spread of the virus.
- If possible, favor natural ventilation in common spaces or those with a high concentration of personnel, as well as in work areas with a large number of personnel.
- Check the operation of ventilation systems, if available, and provide maintenance and filter changes for proper operation.
It is important to mention that there is no evidence that disinfectant mats work, therefore their use is withdrawn. They should not be used.
Vaccination reduces the risk of presenting a severe disease and/or dying as a consequence of COVID-19, however, it should not be considered as the only option to mitigate the risk of this disease, but it is a complement to other preventive actions such as: respiratory etiquette, healthy distance, use of personal protective equipment, among others.
Vaccination should not be a conditioning factor to prevent people from performing their work activities.
Application of COVID-19 tests
Antigen and RT-PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 may be performed in workplaces with the consent of the workers. The viral genetic material detection test (RT-PCR) remains the internationally accepted test for confirmation during the acute phase of the disease. SARS-CoV-2 antigen detection tests are useful for detecting specific SARS-CoV-2 molecules, which are present when there is active infection.
In no case should it be mandatory to take a test (RT-PCR, antigen or serological) for return to work. Companies should have a policy of protection for workers to avoid conditioning the return to work by means of tests financed by the worker.
Use of mouth masks In order to reduce the risk of contagion, employers may distribute mouth masks (surgical masks) among the working population, supervising their correct use (covering nose and mouth). The use of masks with valves is not recommended, since they do not reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The use of masks is suggested according to the following scheme:
Closed spaces Open spaces
Safe distance No safe distance Safe distance No safe distance
Mask: Not obligatory Recommended Not obligatory Recommended
It is suggested to keep the use of masks in closed spaces that are not ventilated or have little ventilation.
Considerations where the use of masks may be omitted:
- People who do not share the physical workplace
- When drinking beverages or consuming food
- Intense physical labor
Considerations where the use of masks is suggested:
- People who have decided not to be vaccinated or who are immunocompromised are suggested to use masks at all times.
- In poorly ventilated workplaces, people who share the same physical workplace.
- Special cases will have to be assessed individually.
Workplaces with very high exposure to known or suspected sources of SARS-CoV-2, such as healthcare workers performing aerosol-generating procedures, should wear N95 masks (or equivalent), gloves, gowns, and eye protection.
Recommendations on health safety measures in the work environment
Planning and monitoring
Designation of a committee or person responsible for the correct implementation, follow-up and supervision of the measures for the New Normal within the framework of COVID-19. This committee or responsible person shall:
- Make sure that the general control strategies are correctly implemented.
- Keep informed of the indications of the federal authority in order to, if necessary, communicate to the workers about new measures to be implemented.
- Supervise that the cleaning protocols for areas, surfaces, contact objects and common use objects are complied with.
It is recommended that, in the accesses and common areas of the work center, there should be sinks with soap, water and disposable paper towels or air dryers for hands and trash cans. If there are no sinks at the entrances, there may be dispensers with at least 60% alcohol-based solution. This measure ensures that workers who wish to perform hand hygiene upon arrival at work can do so. The restrooms are equipped with sinks in proper operating conditions. If there are ventilation systems in the workplace, make sure they are working properly and that filters are changed according to the supplier's instructions. Natural ventilation should be encouraged where possible.
If this is not possible, ventilation systems can be used with the proper maintenance established by the supplier.
Food and transport
It is recommended that during food consumption a distance of 1.5 meters can be maintained between workers.
It is recommended that during transportation (from home to work and vice versa, or on commissions), workers use their masks during the trip in case they use public transportation and perform hand hygiene with an alcohol-based solution of at least 60%. If the company has personnel transportation, the unit must be cleaned before the workers get on it.
Personal protective equipment
If necessary, during the working day, the masks should be used correctly, covering the nose and mouth, according to the scheme for the use of mouth covers established in this document.
Health promotion, information and training
- Inform workers about the prevention measures established in the company's Health Safety Protocol.
- Have a training program for all workers on the actions to be taken in the workplace to prevent and avoid COVID-19 infection chains; you can use the CLIMSS material located at the following link: https://climss.imss.gob.mx/.
- Have a clear and written Health Security protocol with the concepts of suspected, confirmed and contact case.
- Have an instrument (questionnaire) to identify symptoms of suspected cases in workers for COVID-19, in accordance with the current operational definition.
- Have an instrument (list or census) for the identification of work and community contacts, including: Name, date of last work contact, names of contacts, time and place of exposure.
- Establish a policy to protect workers from being conditioned to return to work by means of tests financed by workers.
(Note: the above recommendations from the IMSS are based on CDC and OSHA recommendations.)
Autor: Mauricio Foeth -Taxavo https://www.taxavo.mx/
Image by Freepik
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