The Covid-19 crisis is far from over. We seem to be succeeding in reducing the number of new infections, however, and the numbers of hospital admissions and deaths fortunately keep falling too. So plans are cautiously being made to gradually let companies get back to work. But we should be under no illusions. We won’t be going back to how things were before the coronavirus outbreak. We’ll need to make sure we keep the risk of infection as low as possible in everything we do, so that we can keep the situation under control once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Especially at the workplace.
A team of experts has therefore been working on a ‘General guide for combating the spread of Covid-19 at work’ on behalf of Nathalie Muylle, the Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs. (link) These experts are from the social partners in the High Council for Prevention and Protection at Work, the Economic Risk Management Group, the FPS for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, and the policy cell for the Minister of Employment.
It’s a ‘new normal’ that we’ll all be entering into over the coming months, and it will require a great deal of preparation and adjustment by employers and their employees. We summarise ten general measures from the guide, to underline their importance, below. We recommend, however, that you take the time to go through all the measures in the guide in full. It contains a lot more information and useful tips, and gives you a good picture of what needs to happen to create the safest possible working environment for your employees to return to.
Give your employees clear instructions and provide the necessary training and communication. Contact your employees, including temporary workers and trainees, and other partners such as clients, customers, suppliers, contractors, subcontractors, freelancers, visitors, etc. in good time to inform them about the new rules in your organisation.
Organise your activities so that people can work remotely as much as possible in any roles that allow it.
Apply social distancing as much as possible. Keeping a safe distance – which means avoiding contact and staying 1.5 metres away from other people – is still the best way of limiting the spread of Covid-19. So ensure a distance of 1.5 metres is adhered to as much as possible, and avoid any gatherings. If this is not possible for your work organisation despite other additional measures, then aim to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres as much as possible. Use markings, tape or physical barriers to section off zones or areas, or use signs on the floor to indicate how much distance needs to be maintained. These principles apply everywhere in the workplace and for all other aspects of the work.
Avoid employees arriving and leaving work at the same time as much as possible. Investigate possibilities for staggering working times throughout the day. For example, look at possibilities for starting and finishing work earlier and later. This will automatically have an impact on the number of people present at the same time.
Install measures such as markings, tape or physical barriers to ensure adequate spacing at entrances, exits and in aisles. Consider one-way traffic in aisles and on stairs where people pass each other too often without maintaining enough distance. Make sure people pass each other as little as possible.
Limit the number of employees working in the same areas as much as possible (by working from home, adjusting break times, etc.), and limit the time that employees spend together in the same room as much as possible
If work is done is shifts or teams: limit the size of the teams, and avoid rotating the composition of the teams as much as possible.
Avoid gatherings – such as meetings, training courses and work discussions – wherever possible by making use of alternatives including digital communications and tools.
Spread out break and lunch times so they don’t overlap.
Use measures such as markings, tape and physical barriers to indicate routes as clearly as possible, both for employees and clients, suppliers, etc.
Reorganise the layout in reception areas, e.g.
- with protective measures in reception (barriers and screens)
- modified reception
- give visitors facilities to wash their hands. or make hand gels available if this isn’t possible
- provide a place where post, parcels and packages can be left without any contact.
As mentioned previously, this is only a selection of the measures recommended in the the guide . Make sure you take the time to go through the whole guide!
This guide also contains general rules. The aim is for these measures to be sent out to sectors so sector-specific measures can be added where necessary.
We wish you lots of success with your preparations! Stay safe!