Businesses allowed to resume operations under the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 must put in place measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, to ensure the safety of employees. A COVID-19 compliance officer must also be appointed.
The updated Regulations to the Disaster Management Act, published on 29 April 2020, allows for more businesses to resume operations during Alert Level 4. However, the Regulations also require these businesses to implement strict health and safety protocols at the workplace before resuming operations.
These protocols must take the form of a workplace plan and must include certain minimum information, set out in the Regulations and explained in further detail in the COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures in the Workplace Directive, also published on 29 April 2020.
The workplace plan must be established prior to the re-opening of the enterprise and the complexity of the plan will, to a large extent, be determined by the number of employees of the business in question.
At minimum, the workplace plan must specify the following:
- The date on which the business will re-open and the business’s operating hours;
- Lists of employees falling under the following categories:
- Those who can work from home;
- Those who are 60 years and older who will be required to stay at home or work from home;
- Those with comorbidities who will be required to stay at home or work from home;
- A timetable setting out the phased return to work;
- Details of the steps taken by the employer to get the workplace COVID-19 ready and the arrangements for employees, including:
- the social distancing measures that will be implemented;
- details of the sanitary facilities to be provided at the entrances to, and exits from, the workplace;
- details of the screening facilities and systems to be implemented at the workplace;
- details of the protocols to be followed in the case of a suspected case of COVID-19 at the workplace;
- details of the system and infrastructure to be used to record attendance at the workplace;
- identification of the designated work-areas of employees and details of the social distancing and sanitary measures to be implemented in those areas;
- identification of any designated area where members of the public are served and details of the social distancing and sanitary measures to be implemented in such area;
- identification of canteen and bathroom facilities and details of the social distancing and sanitary measures to be implemented in those areas;
- for employers with more than 500 employees, details of the establishment and implementation of COVID-19 testing facilities;
- details of employee rotational arrangements, for establishments where fewer than 100% of employees will be permitted to work at any given time; and
- Details of the COVID-19 compliance officer appointed by the employer.
Special arrangements must be made for employees with comorbidities and those over the age of 60. These arrangements do not need to be set out in the workplace plan, although the lists of who these employees are, must be included in the plan. In terms of the Regulations and the Directive, the obligations placed on employers with greater numbers of employees are greater than those with fewer employees.