Haryana’s new guidelines for lockdown 3.0 and safety guidelines to be followed by all states
While the state of Haryana had issued certain guidelines with regard to various aspects in the third stage of the lockdown, certain provisions were revised on May 3, 2020. Amongst these the primary ones included the issuing of passes on weekly basis for employees to attend their workplace. This aspect is applicable currently till May 17, 2020, i.e. till the lockdown is applicable.
Requirements from each entity
The types of commercial units and establishments that are permitted to function has been discussed in our update the link of which is shared herewith https://www.linkedin.com/posts/rohitaashv-sinha-18027715_brief-update-on-mha-guidelines-on-extended-activity-6662458717583347712-gLCH. The units need to obtain passes for their employees and staff. The units constantly need to keep themselves updated with regard to the zones that they are falling in and comply with the required conditions that have been laid out for the zones. They would also be required to obtain passes for their employees vide the portal provided by the Government of Haryana. The safety guidelines as provided in the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated May 1, 2020 (“Guidelines”). Some of the important health and safety conditions to be followed by employers are as follows:
(i) facemasks need to be worn at workplaces and the employer needs to make the same available;
(ii) social distancing guidelines as provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (“MOHFW”) need to be followed;
(iii) there needs to be thermal scanners to frequently test the body temperature of employees and sanatization of workplace should be carried out regularly;
(iv) as safety measure the Arogya Setu App (“App”) needs to be there and running for all employees and hospitals and clinics near the work area should be identified so that in the event any person having any COVID-19 symptoms can immediately be sent for check up;
(v) the entity needs to ensure that travel facilities provided to employees are done so with adequate social distancing measures; and
(vi) all large gatherings and meetings are to be avoided.
General health and safety of workers
Employers need to understand that the requirements laid down in the Guidelines are not the only set of guidelines that are to be followed. In an environment that promotes safety and security of personnel, there may be increased situations wherein health and safety of workers becomes paramount. While the Factories Act, 1948 (“Factories Act”) and their respective rules lay down analmost complete scenario of what needs to be done, many employers tend to take lightly the health and safety measures of “shops” and“commercial establishments”like banks, IT offices etc.. In fact, their policies and handbooks hardly feature any aspect relating to health and safety of their employees at workplace. During and after lockdown, this policy may require a change. There may be frequent visits from labour offices to check the health and safety of workers during and post COVID-19 scenario. Generally, shops and commercial establishments require the following parameters to be followed as per their respective shops and establishments act:
(i) Steps to be taken for providing a ‘healthy’ workplace– The aspects amongst others include clean and dust free environment, proper ventilation and lighting during work etc. An important aspect which is covered is frequent whitewashing of the premises which sometimes many establishments tend to avoid. Care should be taken that the same mistakes are not followed.
(ii) Steps to ensure safety and security at workplace– The safety and security measures are very similar to those that are provided in the Factories Act. Amongst other aspects it talks about placement of machinery, protective equipment to be provided during any manufacturing process etc. It also talks about the requirement of a first aid box and enough number of times it has been found that first aid boxes are rarely a feature among “commercial establishments”. Hence, the same needs to be definitely looked into.
Health and safety of workers have often been missed as focal point by entities who bypass the same from time to time. Massive industrialisation and the threat to “ease of doing business in India” ranking somehow left health and safety of workers astray. However, it appears that during ‘Lockdown 3.0’ and even after that, the issue of health and safety may be of prime importance to Government of India and also the courts. The Constitution of India, 1950 prescribes the State to direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers. No less than the Supreme Court of India has time and again reiterated that Article 21—right to life also includes right of employees’ health.
Therefore, the time is right and ripe for all types of factories, industrial units, commercial establishments, shops etc. to revisit their health and safety charters and mechanisms. The COVID-19 pandemic has given them enough food for thought. If thorough health and safety measures are followed, it may be fair to say that the Government of India and authorities would give thought to the aspect of ‘not shutting’ down activities in totality if a situation of COVID-19 nature does arise again.
This update is by Rohitaashv Sinha, Advocate & Associate Partner at Agarwal Jetley & Co., Advocates & Solicitors. Contact: Email: email@example.com or Mob: (+91) - 9999565393