SAFE AT WORK - Generic guide for combatting the spread of COVID-19 at work

04-05-2020 – According to the experts, we are going to have to live with the coronavirus for a long time to come. We will therefore have to continue to take measures for a long time to avoid the further spread or new waves of the virus as much as possible. This will be all the more true as soon as we phase out the strict 'lockdown' measures and the distinction between essential and nonessential sectors disappears. Employers, workers, social partners, prevention services and other actors have an important role to play here.

This generic guide is the result of co-operation between the social partners in the High Council for Prevention and Protection at Work, the Economic Risk Management Group, the FPS ELSD and the policy unit of the Minister for Employment. Based on their expertise, they have developed a tool that carries considerable support, containing a number of necessary and minimum building blocks to enable workers to return to work as safely as possible in the post-lockdown period by keeping the risk of infection as low as possible and avoiding infections as much as possible.

This generic tool can then be further customised by the different sectors to take maximum account of their sector-specific context, and by any employer who needs it, so that activities can be restarted in safe conditions.

Social dialogue at all levels plays a central and crucial role here. Existing consultation bodies within the organisation, such as the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work, the trade union delegation, or the workers themselves (if there is no trade union delegation) should be involved in the choice and implementation of these measures. In addition, the expertise available internally and externally, e.g. from the prevention advisor and the external prevention services, must also be called upon, especially at companies where internal expertise is lacking or limited.

There is currently a very high demand for concrete and feasible prevention measures, whether general or sector-specific, to support employers and protect workers at work, during journeys to and from the workplace (e.g. communal transport), or during other work-related activities (e.g. use of canteens, changing rooms and other social services and contact with customers, suppliers and sub-contractors).

This guide provides guidelines for sectors and employers who have had to (partially) cease their activities, in preparation for a safe resumption of these activities. Sectors and employers who have not interrupted their activities and have already taken the necessary measures can use this guide as a source of further inspiration.

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