EU issues guidance for a safe return to the workplace

The coronavirus epidemic has shown that implementing appropriate occupational safety and health measures and providing adequate conditions are essential in all sectors regardless of the activity. After the coronavirus outbreak, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) had published a guidance for the workplace. Now, a couple of month later, at the end of April 2020, the EU-OSHA issued guidance on coming back to work. The goal of these non-binding guidelines is to help employers and workers to stay safe and healthy in a working environment that has been changed significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance covers six areas:

a) Risk assessment and appropriate measures, which includes:
i) Minimizing exposure to COVID-19 at work, assessing the risks, and putting control measures in place to first eliminate the risk and if that is not possible, to minimize worker exposure. Collective measures can be supplemented with individual measures such as protective equipment.
ii) Resuming work after a period of closure, making a plan for when work resumes that takes account of health and safety, carrying out adaptations, training and new procedures.
iii) Coping with a high rate of absence, putting new methods and procedures in place and changing roles and responsibilities.
iv) Managing workers working from home, minimizing the risks of workers who have not been able to prepare their home workplace properly. Adapting the home environment do avoid deficiency.
b) Involving workers, consulting workers and/or their representatives and the health and safety representatives about planned changes and how temporary processes will work in practice.
c) Taking care of workers who have been ill, special considerations required for those workers who have become seriously ill.
d) Planning and learning for the future, drawing up or updating the crisis contingency plans for shutdown and start-up events in the future.
e) Staying well informed, differentiating the reliable and accurate from the vague and misleading amongst the overwhelming amount of information related to COVID-19.
f) Information for sectors and occupations, a collection of sector specific guidelines related to COVID-19.

The guidance represents a crucial EU contribution in this important period, and will be updated regularly with reliable information as the situation evolves, to ensure that workers can return to a safe and healthy workplace environment.

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