Last updated: 30 April 2020
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The European Commission published on April 24 some good practice Guidelines for getting back at the workplace, a Guide aimed at helping employers and employees to stay safe and healthy in a working environment that has changed significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guidelines are drawn up by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA).
The Guidelines provide links to the national information of the countries by sectors and occupations, which, depending on the particular work situation, can help employers achieve an appropriately safe and healthy work environment when resuming activities.
Here below, there is an overview on the recommendations of the Commission on risk assessment and appropriate measures to be undertaken by both employers and employees, planning and learning for further action.
1. RISK ASSESSMENT AND APPROPRIATE MEASURES
Companies are advised to draw up an action plan covering the appropriate measures, relying on a risk assessment of the overall state of affairs by the risk prevention or occupational health provider, of course by taking into account the updated information released by the public authorities on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the region.
The European Commission highlights some issues to consider when drawing up such an action plan.
- Minimising exposure to COVID-19 at work
Certain control measures are aimed to first eliminate the risk, and if this is not possible, to minimize worker exposure, namely:
- Carry out only essential work and postpone high risk work; ensure that only workers who are essential to the job are present at the workplace. Services delivery remotely (via telephone or video) should be preferred to that in person.
- Reduce physical contact between workers.
- Eliminate, and if not possible, limit physical interaction with customers.
- Good delivery should occur outside the premises.- Place an impervious barrier between workers, especially if they are not able to keep a two-meter distance from each other.
- If close contact is unavoidable, keep it to less than 15 minutes. Arrange the timing of meal breaks to reduce the number of people sharing a cafeteria, kitchen or staff room.
- Supply soap and water or appropriate hand sanitiser at convenient places and advise workers to wash their hands frequently. Clean your premises frequently and provide good ventilation if possible.
- Facilitate workers’ use of individual rather than collective transport and encourage workers to walk to work.
- Put in place policies on flexible leave and remote working to limit presence at the workplace.
- Resuming work after a period of closure
When drawing up the plan for resuming work you should consider several elements such as :
- Update your risk assessment and the safety measures plan;
- Carry out adaptations to the layout of the workplace and the organization of work;
- Pay special attention to workers who are at high risk and be prepared to protect the most vulnerable (those with chronic conditions, pregnant women …).
- Coping with a high rate of absence
Employers must consider employees’ worries when it comes to the risk of contamination. To such end, the workload needs to be tailored in order to be able to cope with a reduced workforce. Several methods and procedures can be considered such as roles and responsibilities, ensure crossed training so that employees may perform essential work.
- Managing workers working from home
2. INVOLVE WORKERS
The Guidelines point out the need for early consultation of workers and/or their representatives and the health and safety representatives on about planned changes and how temporary processes will work in practice.
Such information is to be disseminated also to interim staff, contractors and direct employees.
3. TAKE CARE OF WORKERS WHO HAVE BEEN ILL
Occupational physicians and health services are best placed to advise on how to take care of workers who have been ill and therefore they must be consulted on a frequent basis. They can also guide you on any adaptations need in such employees’ work.
4. PLAN AND LEARN FOR THE FUTURE
It is important to draw up or update crisis contingency plans for shutdown and start-up events in the future. Enterprises that have used teleworking for the first time may consider adopting it as a modern, long-term working practice.
5. STAY WELL INFORMED
It is important that you always check the original source of the information you trust. Official sources of information on COVID-19 include: WHO, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Commission, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the local authorities, namely the Ministries of Health and Labour.