Next week more people will return to work. The government has set rules to make this work. An overview.
Nobody is allowed to reopen their business if they don’t follow certain rules. If more people meet again soon, the risk of infection increases. For this reason, the Federal Government has adopted measures to protect against infection with the corona virus, which will apply to all companies in Germany from now on. “Everyone can rely on these standards and everyone has to adhere to these standards,” Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil said on Thursday.
Employers are responsible
Heil initially made it clear when the list was presented: employers should be well informed, involve occupational safety experts and company doctors. The rules should be clearly explained to employees. Because one thing is clear: If the easing leads to more sick people, there could be more restrictions. The following points are also changeable – depending on how the pandemic develops. “The effort for the companies is out of the question,” said the Minister. “But it is a necessary effort.”
Distance or nose-mouth covering
As in public spaces, work must be kept at a distance of at least 1.5 meters from others – in buildings, outdoors and in vehicles. Barriers or markings could be attached as in the supermarket. Where that is not possible, said Heil, cut-off wheels should be installed. If this is also not feasible, employers would have to provide nose and mouth covers for employees and customers. “Anyone who works in these special times needs special protection,” said the SPD politician. He explicitly does not mean medical masks. These should be reserved for staff in care and health facilities.
Clean hands and doorknobs
The employer must provide sufficient soap, towel dispensers and disinfectant dispensers. Sanitary and common areas would have to be cleaned more often than usual. Likewise door handles and handrails. Everyone should adhere to the sneeze and cough label – which means sneezing and coughing in handkerchiefs or the elbow. And: If you ventilate regularly, reduce the number of vigorous droplets in the room.
Home office instead of open-plan office
If possible, working people should continue to work from home, especially if the alternative is the open-plan office. Otherwise, the operational processes should be organized in such a way that employees have as little direct contact as possible. Sometimes breaks and shifts need to be organized differently. As far as possible, the same people should always be divided into common layers.
Business trips and face-to-face events such as meetings should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Different time slots are conceivable in canteens so that there are not too many in the queue. There and in other common rooms, tables and chairs have to be set apart enough. “The virus will continue to shape our lives and work for a long time,” said Heil.
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Sharing is taboo
If possible, tools should not be handled and used by several employees. Care should also be taken to ensure that nobody shares protective equipment. It also says: “For outside and delivery services, people using a vehicle should be limited.”
Sick means sick
“Never sick to work,” Heil warned. Anyone who has symptoms such as cough, mild fever or shortness of breath should leave the workplace or – even better – stay at home straight away and contact a doctor. Employees are also asked here in order not to endanger colleagues. In the event of a Covid 19 illness in the company, the minister recommends developing operational routines and cooperating closely with the local health authorities. A permanent contact in the company about the pandemic would also help. Anyone who belongs to the risk group, who is pre-sick, should contact the boss or company doctor to agree on possibly stricter measures.
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Checks are possible
Hubertus Heil made it clear: “These are binding rules.” The authorities would randomly check compliance. It’s not about threatening the economy. The focus is still on protecting people. In addition, carelessness harms the company. If someone falls ill with the virus, many colleagues or even all have to be quarantined.
The ministry has drawn up the regulations with employers, trade unions and the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). From now on, a group of advisors in the Ministry should keep an eye on the protective measures and change them if necessary. The Robert Koch Institute is also involved. The behavior of people, Heil emphasizes, is still crucial for success.
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