Thick black smog across Delhi and NCR has become the annual winter ordeal. According to World Health Organization guidelines, India’s country-specific air quality index (AQI) considers the particulate matter ranges from 0-60 µg/m3 to be good to satisfactory and those between 251 and 300 µg/m3 to be severe. However, on Thursday, levels in Delhi hit 640 µg/m3, and in some areas, it was reported to reach a level over 800s.
For the past one week, Delhi and NCR have been lurching under the effect of heavy smog. Last year, witnessing the same situation, ASSOCHAM reported that organizations faced a staff crunch ranging between 5-10% with growing number of employees calling in sick. In a situation like this, what should be an HRs responsivity towards the health of the employees?
People Matters reached out to organizations and HR professionals to understand the various initiatives they are taking to promote employees’ health in this uneasy situation. Here are the top five things that every organization can do or adopt in similar situations in the future:
Providing an Anti-Pollution Mask
Doctors in Delhi have declared a public health emergency as the air quality in the world’s most polluted capital city plunged to levels which are similar to smoking at least 50 cigarettes in a single day. Distribute/Ensure all the employees wear an anti-pollution mask while traveling out. N95, N99, N100, P95, and P100. The ratings classify how much pollutants each of these masks can filter. An N95 mask would filter 95 percent of PM2.5 while N99 and N100 are capable of filtering 99 per cent and 99.7 per cent particulate matter.
Offer Work from Home:
To tackle the situation, organizations are providing employees with work from home benefit. Companies like Cipla and ZEE Entertainment Enterprise Limited are providing employees with Work from Home who have severe respiratory problems.
Encourage employees to carpool. Organizations like Google, Nagarro, Airtel, Cairn India, etc. introduced carpooling policies for employees during the introduction of Odd-Even scheme. During the Odd-Even scheme, Cairn spokesperson shared in media “Cairn operates a ‘green fleet,' which includes CNG cars and shuttles to provide last-mile connectivity from Metro stations and bus stops. He was quoted in media saying, “To make the car-pooling policy stronger in the company, we had introduced an automated help desk. The desk maintains a database of employees who bring their cars for those who want to carpool. Now, the help desk will also list even and odd-numbered cars available for car-pooling.”
Set up an oxygen chamber
Acknowledging the fact that a good quality air is a luxury for the residents in NCR, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in partnership with a private company Nurturing Green, recently set up an oxygen chamber to enable people to walk in and breathe in unadulterated oxygen.
Companies can adopt a similar approach, organizations can set up a dedicated space for oxygen chambers.
In an e-mailed conversation with ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), Praveer Priyadarshi, Chief People Officer shared as an immediate step to ensure the wellness of each employee, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) is providing effective safety measures to its workforce in New Delhi and Noida.
Offering much-needed assistance to protect its employees against health hazards, the Media & Entertainment conglomerate has provided an anti-pollution mask to each employee and is allowing ‘Work from Home’ for employees who are suffering from severe respiratory problems. The organization has also implemented the ‘Flexi Working Hours’ policy to allow employees to protect themselves from inhaling the polluted air while traveling to and from work. For immediate medical help, the company has enlisted the services of a Doctor at its Noida office for the next ten working days, who is also available on call so that employees and their families can connect with medical personnel in case of an emergency.
“One of our biggest strengths is our workforce. At ZEE, we believe that the health of employees cannot be compromised. In a crisis like this, which is affecting the health and wellness of residents in New Delhi and the surrounding areas, we aim to do all we can to provide a supportive working environment both inside and outside of the office,” says Praveer Priyadarshi.