Starting from May 11, the French containment should gradually be lifted, which means that employees will come back on site. But business must resume safely...
To this end, the employer will have to think about the necessary practical safety measures to be implemented to protect employees’ health and safety, and this important reflection must start from now on.
No general measures!
If only one thing should be kept in mind, it is probably that only tailored measures fitting to each particular organization should be implemented.
Indeed, the employer must implement concrete and diverse measures fitting to the company’s sector of activity, to the premises and to the employees’ actual positions.
General measures such as the disposal of a general information of employees about regular handwashing or a mere copy-paste of WHO’s or other official recommendations will not be deemed sufficient.
In order to implement proper health and safety measures, several practical and concrete actions must be done. Special hygiene measures must be taken such as cleaning and sanitization, avoidance of physical meetings and close contacts in places such as elevators or company restaurant…
The importance of the so-called “central risk-assessment document”
The central risk-assessment document (so-called “document unique d’évaluation des risques” or “DUER”) is an official and statutory document elaborated by the employer which contains an evaluation of professional risks (physical and psychological risks).
Every company has different risks as they depend from factors such as the employees’ positions, the work environment, individual and collective workstations, open plans, etc.
In order to identify and assess professional risks, it is possible to refer to guidelines which have been published in some sectors of activities (such as in the construction industry for example) or those elaborated by the Labor Ministry and posted on its website. At EU level, the EU-OSHA (European Agence for safety and security at work) published a guide “Back to workplace – adapting workplaces and protecting workers” which could also be used as a support for the risks’ identification.
Identified risks must be regularly reassessed and appropriate measures must be taken in order to avoid or to limit those risks.
If there are staff representatives in the company (so-called “comité social et économique” or “SEC” or “SCE”), they must be highly involved in the risks (re-)assessment.
The central risk-assessment document must be kept at the disposal of staff reps, labor inspection, company’s health and safety service and company’s labor doctor.
Internal rules and regulations
Based on its obligation of security, the employer must put in place safety and security measures (rules of social distancing, regular hand washing, special hygiene measures, etc.) and also ensure that employees comply with all these measures.
Indeed, given the impact of the pandemic on applicable rules in terms of hygiene and safety, the measures taken by the employer to struggle the propagation of the pandemic fall within the scope of internal rules and regulations, which content is mandatory for employees, meaning that non-compliance can lead to disciplinary sanctions by the employer.
Organization of the employees’ work schedule
With the lock down, lots of employers ask employees, where possible, to work from home. Given the suddenness of the pandemic, many employers had no time to formally organize it.
For sure, even after official end of lockdown, work from home will remain in force whenever possible. To this end, employers must, if needed, properly formalize its organization. This organization may include a reflection on the tools needed by employees, professional training regarding IT and programs, and as the case may be an evaluation of risks linked to work from home, etc.
Involvement of several actors in the organization of the restart of the business
Last but not least, all the above-mentioned measures should be organized and implemented with the involvement of staff representatives and the labor doctor who will be able to help the employer defining appropriate measures and adapt its activity.
The success of the employer’s “back to work plans” will largely depend on what is implemented, how it matches the company’s features and how much they give the necessary confidence to employees to come back to work in a safe environment.
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