Since companies should progressively reopen their premises as of May 11th, the French Labour Minister published a “National Protocol” to help employers preparing the return of employees and protecting their health and safety. Hereafter an overview of the main recommendations provided by this document.
First, the National Protocol provides that employers must adopt preventive measures by respecting the following priority order:
1. Avoid the risk of exposure to the virus;
2. Assess the risks that cannot be avoided;
3. Favour collective protection measures.
The Protocol then recalls that work from home must be continued anytime it is possible for an employee in order to avoid the risk of overcrowding and concentration of staff.
On this basis, the Protocol is divided into several parts.
- Barrier and social distancing measures
The Protocol recalls the general hygiene recommendations provided by Authorities: to regularly wash hands, avoid touching your face, respect a physical distance of at least 1 meter, etc.
These measures must be regularly reminded to employees and displayed in the workplace.
- Recommendations for open plans
In order to respect the minimum distance of 1 meter around a person, Authorities have set a universal criterion for the maximum occupancy of public spaces and workplaces.
In practice, each employee must benefit from 4 square metres in its place of work.
For instance, in an open plan of 160m2, 40 persons may simultaneously be present.
As a last resort, in situations involving an unmanageable risk of accidental distancing rupture, additional measures such as wearing a mask will have to be implemented.
- Management of flows of people
In the context of reopening, employers must strictly assess flows of people in the workplace and draft a “flow plan” ensuring the respect of distancing measures.
Furthermore, specific measures must be taken for the use of common premises (e.g. ground markings, barriers, different routes for arrivals and departures, etc.).
These measures must be communicated to employees and to all people coming to the company’s premises (e.g. client, suppliers, service providers…).
- Individual protective equipment
In addition to these collective measures, the employer may also decide to provide employees with individual protective equipment. However, the Protocol clearly specifies that individual protective equipment cannot replace collective measures.
On this basis, the employer may generalize the use of masks by providing employees with “general public” masks developed in the context of the pandemic.
The use of masks only becomes mandatory if social distancing cannot be ensured by collective protective measures.
- Screening and temperature tests
The Labour Minister specifies that companies are not allowed to implement screening tests of employees.
However, the employer may proceed to temperature tests under certain conditions, even if the Labour Minister advise against temperature testing.
To do so, terms and conditions of temperature tests must be defined in a company’s policy. It means that the staff representatives must be informed and consulted, and the document must be communicated to the Labour Inspection.
- Specific plan in case of COVID-19 suspicion
The employer must implement a specific process in the event that an employee declares symptoms, as the case may with the assistance of the occupational doctor.
To do so, the employer must follow three principles: isolation, protection and search for signs of seriousness.
This process must also allow the employer to easily identify the persons who have been in contact with the concerned employee.
- Cleaning and disinfection
Finally, the Protocol defines terms and conditions for premises’ cleaning and sanitization which must be made on a regularly basis.
Employers are notably invited to follow the recommendations provided by the French National Research and Safety Institute (“INRS”).
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