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On May 30, 2020, the central government announced a plan for a phased re-opening of the country, propagating the approach that to preserve the economy, we must learn to live with the coronavirus for the time being. A large number of sectors have finally been given permission to open up for the first time since the lockdown. This article discusses which business located where can reopen, the measures they must take for safe operations, and the extent of their liability.

Will I be able to open my business in Unlock 1? As per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Order dated May 30, 2020 [Govt. of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A)] (hereinafter “MHA Order”), whether a business can reopen will depend on two things, firstly, the zone it is located in, and secondly, under which sector/type of business it falls.

Location: In areas outside the containment zone, all activities are permitted except the ones falling under sectors for which a starting date has been announced in the MHA Order. Therefore, so long as your business is not inside a containment zone, irrespective of it being in the red, orange or green zone, it can be opened as long as it is not listed as impermissible to a certain date.

Sector: All types of activities have been permitted except for the following ones which can only be started from a particular date:

8 June, 2020 Onwards - The following will be permitted to reopen from this date:

·         Religious places/ places of worship for public

·         Hotels, Restaurants and Other Hospitality Services

·         Shopping Malls

Standard operating Procedure will be notified in due time for the reopening of these places.

In July, 2020 - A decision will be taken as to the date of reopening in July of schools, colleges, coach and training centers, in consultation with the state governments, and a Standard Operating procedure will be notified for a safe reopening.

Indefinite date of resumption - The MHA has not given a date for the resumption of the following activities, however the fact that they are on the list means that the government will eventually try and finalize a date for resuming them:

·         International air travel

·         Metro rail

·         Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theaters, bars, assembly halls, auditoriums and such other places of recreational gathering

·         Social/political/cultural/academic/sports/entertainment/ religious functions or other large congregations.

Therefore, so long as your business is not on the list of businesses/activities to be resumed at a later date as per the Order, it can be reopened if it is not in a containment zone.

What mandatory steps will I have to follow relating to COVID-management after reopening my office/workplace? The MHA Order gives a series of precautions that all people must follow, but also gives certain specifications for workplace.

GENERAL PRECAUTIONS ·         Compulsory face covering in public places, transport and workplace

·         A minimum distance of 6 feet between individuals

·         Large gatherings are prohibited

·         Spitting in public is a punishable offense

·         Consumption of alcohol and tobacco in public places is prohibited

PRECAUTIONS FOR THE WORKPLACE ·         Work from home should be continued as far as possible

·         Staggering of working hours to not have all employees at the work place at the same time

·         Provisions for thermal scanning and sanitization to be made available at all entry and exit points

·         Frequent sanitization of the entire workplace, particularly common areas where objects come in human contact, such as door handles, railings, etc.

[See Annexure I, MHA Order]

Reopening of workplace will require that employee comply with all of the above guidelines diligently to ensure safety and efficiency at the workplace.

What is the procedure for resumption of manufacturing in plants? The resumption of manufacturing in industrial units, at present, is to be governed by an earlier communication by the MHA to the States regarding the process issues on May 9, 2020 [MHA Communication No. 1-137/2020/Mit II]. The guidelines suggest a precautionary approach in the initial weeks of operation because machinery and equipment will not have been used for a while, and may require servicing.

The communication directs that employees must be trained to notice abnormal sounds and smells which may indicate a leak, exposed wires, wobbly machinery, and other such signs which could indicate a need for maintenance or possible shut down of the unit for the period of fixing machinery. All equipment must be inspected for safety at the time of reopening.

There are specific steps to be followed for safe storage and manufacturing in factories which include checking storage for wear and tear and spills during lockdown, checking for oxidation in open stored goods, checking HAZMAT chemicals for safety before use, and carrying out a safety audit of the entire unit before restarting.

[For full details, see complete guidelines at:]

In addition, there are certain specific precautions to be taken for the prevention of spread of COVID-19 in manufacturing units:

1. Ensure 24 -hour sanitisation of the factory premises

2. Entrance health checks

·         Temperature checks of all employees to be done twice a day.

·         Workers showing symptoms should not report to work.

3. Provisions of hand sanitisers and mask to all employers. a. Providing gloves, masks and hand sanitisers to be done at all factories and manufacturing units.

4. COVID 19 health and prevention staff education

·         Education on safety steps to take from entry to exit in the factory

·         Measures to take precautions at personal level

5. Quarantine measures for supply and storage of goods

·         Sterilise boxes and wrapping brought into factory premises

·         Isolate and sanitise finished goods as appropriate

·         Delivery of goods in shifts

6. Physical distancing measures

·         Create physical barriers to ensure the physical distance within the work floor and dining facilities

·         Provide face protection shields along with masks and PPEs.

7. Working in shifts

·         Factories that work 24 hours at full production capacity should consider one hour gap
between shifts, except factories/plants requiring continuous operations.

·         Managerial and administrative staff should work one shift at 33 per cent capacity as per MHA guidelines; but while deciding which particular person to be included in 33% at any given point of time, overriding priority should be given to personnel dealing with safety.

·         Ensure no sharing of tools or workstations to the extent possible. Provide additional sets of tools if needed.

8. Scenario plan on discovering a positive case

·         Factories have to prepare accommodation to isolate workers, if needed.

·         HR has to help manage the whole process for individual, all travelling employees also to undergo a mandatory14-day quarantine

9. Presence of skilled workers Workers involved in dealing with hazardous material must be skilled and experienced in the field. No compromise on deployment of such workers should be permitted when an industrial unit is opened up.

Therefore, the reopening of manufacturing units will require certain extra precautions and safety methods to be adopted, which have been provided in detail by the central government and are being enforced by the states. In case your industry is having difficulty in managing crucial backward linkages that may be critical for their safe functioning, they should approach the local district administration for specific assistance, which will be provided.