The field of occupational health and safety has gained much relevance among companies nowadays due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has transformed the way we work to prevent contagion. In furtherance of the safety, health, and welfare of working people, the Government of the Republic of Honduras has issued laws and protocols to prevent the spread of infection in the workplace.
Upon publication in the Official Gazette (La Gaceta) on March 16, 2020, Executive Decree Number PCM-019-2020 approved the Safety and Hygiene Protocol in Workplaces in Prevention of COVID-19 making it of mandatory compliance by employers and workers at the national level. Failure to comply with the Protocol by an employer will lead to an administrative sanction provided in the Labor Inspection Law.
Decree PCM-019-2020 not only establishes obligations for employers but also for employees. Workers must notify their employers before entering the workplace if they have symptoms of coronavirus or any indication of compromised airways.
If an employee exhibits symptom, is obligated to undergo an immediate laboratory examination to confirm or rule out infection by COVID-19. The employer must be notified of the results of such examination so that the necessary measures can be taken in case contagion is confirmed.
The Safety and Hygiene Protocol in Workplaces in Prevention of COVID-19 establishes the following measures aimed at workers and employers for the prevention and control of the virus:
- Employees must often wash their hands with soap and water, for which purpose, each employer must structure a guide to correct hand washing technique and its frequency, according to the economic activity of the company.
- The employer is obliged to provide employees with prevention and hygiene supplies in the workplace, such as hand gel, liquid antiseptic soap, gloves, personal protective equipment, masks when appropriate, and any other measure as instructed by the authorities.
- Workers are required to use a gel containing 70% alcohol or another disinfectant promoted by the Ministry of Health, before entering the workplace facilities, as well as in its different areas or workstations.
- In the cases indicated by the Ministry of Health, certain employees, because of the type of work performed involving direct and regular contact with people infected with COVID-19, must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, protective eyeglasses, coverall clothing, and a mask. When removing the aforementioned equipment, the wearer must take care to avoid contact with the skin, particularly the hands, to avoid passing the virus to the eyes, nose, or mouth.
- The masks are for permanent and compulsory use for workers who present symptoms of COVID-19 and people who have direct contact with them. Once discarded, they must be safely deposited in trash receptacles, with an opening lid and a pedal.
- Employees must avoid places with poor ventilation or people who present symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and a temperature higher than 38 degrees.
- Those involved in health services must maintain a higher standard of cleaning hygiene with the frequent use of gel, soap, and water.
- Employers are instructed to lecture workers regarding the prevention of contagion by COVID-19.
- Company management must establish monitoring, control, and follow-up mechanisms so that workers who present symptoms and/or are infected by contractor companies that provide on-site services, whether permanent or temporary, do not enter the workplace, and can be treated appropriately according to law as soon as possible.
To date, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health together have issued twenty-seven Biosafety Protocols for the Reason of Pandemic COVID-19 in Workplaces for different sectors of the economy. All protocols have general measures that are mandatory, regardless of the industry to which an establishment belongs.
- Social Distancing:
Awareness about maintaining the recommended safety distances between persons (between 1.5 and 2 meters).
- Respiratory etiquette standards:
To avoid the respiratory transmission of biological agents, a set of measures is recommended.
– Cough and sneeze covering the nose and mouth with the internal angle of the flexed elbow.
– Use disposable handkerchiefs or towels to cover nose and mouth and discard them after use.
– Deposit disposable tissues or towels in containers for this purpose, with pedal caps.
– Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes unnecessarily.
– Wash and disinfect your hands before and after touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
– Wash your hands frequently, especially when objects have been manipulated or you have had contact with surfaces.
– Talk while maintaining safe distances, especially with persons showing respiratory symptoms.
– Avoid encountering suspicious persons or those with respiratory symptoms.
– Avoid places or spaces with crowds of people.
– Inform and seek medical help if respiratory symptoms or signs appear or if you have been in direct contact with suspicious people or those with respiratory symptoms.
– Report the presence of suspicious persons or those with respiratory symptoms, especially in workplaces and work centers.
Generally, the proper technique for hand washing established by the World Health Organization (WHO) is recommended. The minimum duration is one (1) minute.
– Wet hands with soap and water.
– Soap the palm, the back, between the fingers and nails very well.
– Rinse the soap residue well and if necessary, repeat the process.
– Properly dry your hands with a paper towel.
Washing and disinfection must be frequent while working. The frequency must be established according to the type of activity.
Training on the appropriate products for washing and disinfecting hands (soap and water, alcohol with glycerin, alcohol gel).
These products must be supplied by a responsible person or the employer. Centers and workplaces must have handwashing facilities that have soap and water, alcohol dispensers in gel form or glycerin.
Hand washing will be carried out on a mandatory basis, before putting on PPE and after its removal. When hands are visibly clean, hand hygiene will be done with alcohol-based products; if they are dirty or stained the use of water and antiseptic soap is required. The use of gloves never precludes proper handwashing after removal. Nails should be short and well cared for.
Washing or disinfecting hands should be a necessary measure in the following situations:
– After coughing or sneezing.
– Before and after touching or blowing your nose.
– Before and after using any means of transport, especially if it is collective or public.
– Before and after visiting public places.
– Before and after handling objects, solid or liquid waste, money.
– Before and after touching animals or people.
– Before and after eating.
– Before and after using bathrooms.
– Before and after the work is done.
During the performance of the work, the frequency of washing will depend on the workplace, and the type of activities and tasks that are carried out and will be defined in each organization or workplace.
- Cleaning and disinfection of objects and surfaces:
The procedure for cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces related to the worker will be carried out by the usual way of cleaning and disinfecting the workplace, guaranteeing that the frequency is related to the use of the same.
After cleaning and disinfecting, objects and surfaces must be left without moisture. Towels with disinfectant, soap and water, or detergents and disinfectants that are usually authorized for this purpose (with a virucidal effect) can be used for cleaning and disinfecting and disposable textile material will be used for the surfaces. The general cleaning will always be done wet, from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest, from the inside out.
The following measures should also be considered:
– The use of a broom in areas of greater risk should be avoided as much as possible.
– Double cube techniques will be used.
– The used material that is disposable, will be placed in a waste container with a lid and labeled with the precise warnings. Surfaces must be cleaned with solutions recommended by international organizations and proven effective against Sars-CoV-2. Among the recommendations are:
- For personal items (screens, phones, tablets), use at least a 70% alcohol solution, spray, and air dry or wipe with a cloth and air dry.
- For work surfaces, floors, walls, doors, desks, and other surfaces:
- Use a diluted household bleach solution (5%) of four teaspoons of bleach per liter of water, spray or rub and leave on for at least 10 minutes.
- Use quaternary ammonium at 5% dilution, following the instructions included. Wait at least 10 minutes for it to take effect.
- Use commercial 3% hydrogen peroxide and leave it on for at least 5 minutes.
- For all products used in surface cleaning and disinfection of SARS CoV-2, the indications for use should be consulted since the concentration of the active components may vary from industrial to domestic presentation and from brand to brand.
- Handling and use of Personal Protective Equipment:
Training in the use and handling (putting on and taking off) of PPE is mandatory. Single-use or disposable PPE must be disposed of under established standards to avoid cross-contamination from other sites, objects, products, or surfaces.
- Operation of health and safety system:
In the organizations or work centers where the Joint Commission for Hygiene and Safety is formed and operating, it must play a fundamental role during the implementation of the SARS CoV-2 measures. To ensure compliance with all the measures, guidelines, norms, and orientations that are available within the organization or workplace, a monitoring and control system must be established. Moreover, organizations or work centers that have health care services are required to take extreme measures to detect suspects and patients. Health personnel must be properly trained to deal with people suspected or sick with SARS CoV-2 according to the protocols and standards established in the country and, failing that, in the organization or workplace.
- Health or epidemiological surveillance:
An organization or workplace that has a surveillance program or plan must consider the necessary measures to adapt it to the regulations and guidelines that guarantee constant communication with the responsible authorities and institutions. If the organization or workplace does not have surveillance strategies, constant communication with the responsible authorities and institutions must be guaranteed. In any case, the organization or workplace must maintain a direct communication mechanism for immediate notification of suspected cases.
On May 23, 2020, the National Congress approved the Law on Mandatory Use of Masks and Application of Biosafety Protocols. The Law establishes the mandatory use of masks or mouth covers (whether homemade, artisanal or industrial) that covers the nose and mouth for all people, without exception, who roam the street throughout the national territory or who attend public or private places with more than five people in the same space.
The sanction for not using a mask is the application of a fine of Two Hundred Lempiras (L. 200.00) or the obligation to carry out community work for six hours. A repeat offender will be detained for twelve hours.
The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Security were authorized to cancel temporarily the operation of any establishment for not applying the Biosafety Protocols. The reopening will be authorized by the Ministry of Labor or the Ministry of Security once the infractions that led to the closure have been corrected. The Law is valid until the end of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The Joint Commission for Hygiene and Safety is responsible for complying with biosecurity protocols in companies. Every company with more than ten employees is obliged to set up a Joint Commission for Hygiene and Safety. We recommend that you verify that the Commission is established in your company and that it is in force; otherwise, you must request the constitution in the Ministry of Labor once employees return to work.
The Biosafety Protocols approved to date are those of the following industries and sectors:
- Government Offices and Customer Service Centers
- Automotive Maintenance Workshops for Supply Chain
- Restaurant and Cafeteria
- Meat Sector (Beef and Pork)
- Wholesalers of Household Items
- Soda and Beverage
- Pastries and Bakeries
- Supply Chain
- Call Centers
- Squares and Shopping Centers
- Distributors of Petroleum Products
- Hairdressers and Barbershops
- Religious Practices and Activities
*To download the Biosecurity Protocol specific to your industry, please visit the following link: