Covid- 19: the rules and recommendations that currently apply in the workplace

Covid- 19: the rules and recommendations that currently apply in the workplace

As the different stages of the health crisis have passed, the rules that apply in the workplace with regards to containment of the virus and protection of workers have constantly evolved.

Here we wish to inform you of the current status and rules.

The highlights of the current phase are that telecommuting is no longer the rule, the gauge of 4 square meters is no longer required and a Covid-19 referent should be appointed by companies. The priority is to facilitate a return to normality for the economic activity, while complying with current health rules as defined by the Public Health High Counsel. Constant vigilance however is still required. 

Consequently, companies should take priority actions in order to assess the risks of exposure to the virus, to implement preventive actions with the purpose of avoiding the risks at source, to reduce to the minimum exposure which cannot be avoided, to promote actions of collective protection, and to implement protective actions towards employees.

Appointment of a Covid-19 referent

Preventive actions should be defined and implemented in concertation with employees and unions representatives to ensure their feasibility, efficiency, and adoption by the wider audience. It is also required from companies to communicate accurate information to their employees and to consult within each of their work units.

For this purpose, a Covid-19 referent should be appointed. In small companies, it can be the head of the company. The name of the referent as well as the assigned missions are communicated to all employees.

To be noted also, that companies have the possibility to work in collaboration with the occupational medical services which can provide necessary advice and recommendations.  

Employees requiring specific attention

Companies should pay specific attention to:

  • the situation of employees under secondment, seasonal workers as well as temporary workers.
  • Employees at risk of serious form of the Covid-19. It is required to limit their contacts and travel. Telecommuting is still the rule for employees at risk and for employees living with people at risk.  If telecommuting is not possible, their attendance at the work place requires the implementation of additional security conditions (i.e. masks for medical use put at their disposal, which should be worn within the work place and in public transport for home/work and business commuting; specific vigilance on regular hand hygiene; adjustment of work stations).

When telecommuting is impossible, employees at risk and those living with people at risk can provide a sick leave certificate established by their doctor or by the occupational physician (certificate of isolation).   

Telecommuting is no longer the rule

Except for employees at risk and those living with people at risk, telecommuting is no longer the rule but is still a priority solution as part of the progressive return of employees to their workplace, even if alternated.

Flow management plan

Companies must define a flow management plan integrating employees, clients, and providers etc., including an incentive circulation plan with the purpose of fluidifying instead of slowing down (e.g. floor markings, reorganization of working hours, waiting areas, avoiding shared office tools, doors open, etc.).

The gauge of 4 square meters is no longer mandatory   

The gauge of 4 square meters is no longer mandatory but is still a reference.  The rule is that each employee should have enough space in compliance with the physical distancing of at least 1 meter considering all other persons around (employee, client, provider, etc.). The gauge should be displayed at the entrance of the considered premises (e.g. meeting room). The use of changing rooms or lockers should also be organized in compliance with hygiene rules and physical distancing.

In situations where it is impossible to comply with the minimum physical distance of at least 1 meter, the use of a mask is mandatory.

Use of individual protection equipment (masks, visors, gloves, and other equipment)

The Labor Ministry has recommended that such equipment is the last solution to promote when employees’ protection cannot be ensured notably by physical distancing rules. In principle, this equipment should only be used in addition to collective protection actions and should not replace them. The Labor Ministry also recommends not to use gloves as they give a false impression of protection.

It is also to be noted that, since July 20th, 2020, the use of a mask is mandatory in all confined public places, in addition to barrier gestures. 

Tests

Testing and serology campaigns organized by companies for their employees are still not authorized. However, companies should play a role by communicating the information issued by the French health authorities and collaborating with them. 

The Labor Ministry does not recommend taking temperatures of employees on arrival, but instead promotes that employees take themselves their temperature before going on site in case they have suspicion of fever or other Covid-19 symptoms. Under certain conditions, companies could take temperatures, but it cannot be mandatory for employees.

How to deal with a symptomatic person 

Companies must issue, preventively and in collaboration with the occupational medical services, an ad hoc process to deal without any delay with symptomatic persons, to isolate them rapidly in a specific room and to encourage them to go home and contact their own doctor.

In the event of a confirmed Covid-19 case, the referent Covid-19 must facilitate the contacts identification by the creation of a matrix based on the statements of the concerned employee and his/her activity history within the company. When the employee is under medical care, the company should contact the occupational medical services and follow the instructions.  

Cleaning, disinfection, and room ventilation

Ventilation

Confined spaces without any presence should be regularly ventilated. In addition, during the working day, it is necessary to ventilate confined rooms every 3 hours for 15 minutes or to ensure air renewal by the ventilation system. It is necessary to ensure the proper functioning and maintenance of mechanical ventilation. The ventilation should not be used if the air flow is directed towards people. Air conditioning systems, whose regular maintenance is ensured, should avoid generating air flows towards people and recycling the air, by researching the most performing healthy filtration.

Reopening after lockdown

Before reopening, if a work site was fully closed during lockdown, there is no need to organize a specific disinfection action. It is only necessary to clean the work site with detergent products as per the usual methods.

If the premises were in use within the past 5 days, even partially, it is necessary to clean with an active product against the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a precaution (as per the instructions below). 

Cleaning and disinfection after reopening

From a general perspective, companies should organize:

  • a recurring cleaning of the areas and objects which are frequently touched, with an active product against the SARS-CoV-2 virus to ensure the disinfection.
  • a daily cleaning of the floors and materials as per usual processes.

A disinfection operation should be performed in addition to the usual cleaning if it is justified by the risk assessment.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Helen Abruzzino

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