The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs has issued a set of directives that companies operating in the private sector must follow in the work and accommodation places to protect workers, as part of preventive and precautionary measures to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and to complement the set of precautionary measures taken by the State of Qatar in this context.
The directives included a set of instructions and steps that the employers must follow in the workplace and the workers' residence, the most important of which is setting work hours of construction workers to 6 hours per day until further notice in addition to other procedures related to raising the workers' awareness of the procedures and the exchange of information.
These measures also include an emphasis on reducing gatherings in the work and residence places and applying preventive and occupational safety measures to protect workers from the virus.
In this context, the Ministry stressed that employers should exchange information and increase workers awareness of the procedures adopted at the company and government levels regarding tackling COVID-19, with emphasis on the importance to taking temperature regularly and monitoring respiratory symptoms; the importance of observing good personal hygiene by reminding them to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth with an elbow if coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their faces; and the need for worker representatives/welfare officers who can communicate in workers' languages to encourage them to share information and perspectives, ask questions, and verify the information.
The directives issued to companies also included increasing frequency of routine cleaning and sanitation of areas with high human contact in worksites, accommodation, bus, bathrooms, kitchens, canteens and other places used by workers; providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces, such as, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls and desks can be wiped down by employees before each use.
The Ministry also directed employers to limit social gathering to the minimum essential; reduce working hours to 6 hours for construction workers until further notice; stagger entry and exit of workers from the workplace; work as much as possible to reduce the population density in the workplace and accommodation provided that each worker is allocated an area of six (6) square meters in the room; prohibit all in-person meetings that are not essential and limiting internal movement as much as feasible; suspend all training events; and restrict the use of common spaces such as canteen and changing rooms, to a limited number of workers at the same time, in line with the MOPH guidelines.
The Ministry also underlined the importance of enhancing the role of the Occupational Safety and Health Officers and management to supervise workers and ensure that protective measures are applied, in particular performing a risk assessment to protect workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19; working with public health authorities to develop a plan to identify suspected cases and contacts with COVID-19 in workplaces and manage them properly; considering the impact on mental health (for example, anxiety about job and income security, about the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the situation of their family members in their home countries).
The Ministry further stressed the importance of providing psychological and social support to infected employees after recovery; checking worker's temperature before taking buses to move to the workplace and to return the accommodation and isolating any worker with high temperature and reporting to the Ministry of Public Health hotline on the number 16000.
The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs also called on employers to take advantage of the clinics available in companies to carry out examination procedures and follow up the health status of workers and providing additional precautionary measures to workers most vulnerable to infection, such as those with chronic diseases (diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases).
The Ministry's directives have also emphasized limiting the number of workers and users of buses to a maximum of 50% of the number of chairs on the bus; ensuring the use of masks and availability of hand sanitizers in the workplace; ensuring that there are no gatherings inside the workplace and that the safe distance between the workers is kept at all time while performing the work and giving attention to other Safety and Health risks in the workplace.
The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs said that the Labor Inspection Department will monitor employers' compliance with strict inspection campaigns, adding that failure to comply will result in the application of penalties.
In case of failure to report suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, the employer will be subjected to the penalties stipulated in Law No. 9 of 2020 amending some provisions of Decree Law No. 17 of 1990 regarding the prevention of infectious diseases, the Ministry added.