The hopefully imminent return from the home office to regular working conditions presents employers with new challenges. How can employers minimize the risk of infection in the company? On April 16, 2020, the German Federal Minister of Employment, Hubertus Heil, presented the new, uniform occupational safety and health standard SARS-CoV-2. The new standard is intended to combine occupational safety and infection protection.
Infection chains are not only to be interrupted within companies, they should more importantly not even be started in the future. The health of employees is to be safeguarded in the long term in order to guarantee future economic activities and avoid shutdowns. One of the most important measures is that in the future employees should keep a minimum distance of 1.5 metres to each other. If this is not possible for work-related reasons, employees are to wear a protective mask covering their mouth and nose. People with respiratory symptoms or fever are not allowed to come to work at all.
The new, uniform occupational safety standard SARS-CoV-2 covers the following points:
- Occupational safety and health regulations at work are becoming increasingly important – they must be supplemented by operational measures to protect against infection with SARS-CoV-2 as the economy is gradually restarted from shutdown.
- Making use of social partnerships, involving occupational safety and health experts, expanding the range of occupational health care services
- The safety distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained during work – indoors, outdoors and in vehicles; if this is impossible for compelling reasons, additional protection must be provided by the employer
- Processes are to be organized in such a way that employees have as little direct contact with each other as possible; this includes during breaks
- Employees are never allowed to go to work sick!
- Additional hygiene measures such as washing and disinfection opportunities
- Provision of washing and disinfection facilities by the employer
- Shorter cleaning and disinfection intervals
- “Sneeze and cough etiquette”
- Use of tools and work equipment only by one person at a time
- Use preventive occupational medicine; protect particularly risk groups
- Ensure operational contributions to pandemic prevention
- Active communication around the principle “Health first!”
Details of the new SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety and health standard can be found on the website of the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The standard can be downloaded from the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.