As Serbia is preparing for the relaxation of measures introduced during the state of emergency declared due to COVID-19 outbreak, it became clear that it is going to be a step-by-step work. The burden of preventing the spread of the disease has been shifted towards self-responsibility of natural persons and companies. In that sense, the Government of Serbia has prepared a draft Decree on Preventive Measures for Safe and Healthy Work for Prevention of Dissemination of the Infectious Disease of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 (“the Decree”). The employers and employees are facing new responsibilities.
The Decree applies to all working positions in the working environment where the work is performed. The main feature of the Decree is the introduction of a plan for preventive measures, as an integral part of the employer’s act on risk evaluation. The Decree shall also solve some data protection issues which have been raised by employers, such as temperature measuring, informing the employees on the possible exposure to the disease, duty of the employee to inform on the case of disease etc.
Plan for preventive measures
The employer shall make the plan for preventive measures within 15 days as of coming into force of the Decree. In case of changes which affect the application of measures on safe and healthy work, the employer must amend the plan, not later than five days from the occurrence of such changes.
The plan is to regulate:
- Measures and activities on preventing of occurrence of COVID-19
- Duties regarding the implementation and control of implementation of, the preventive measures
- Measures and activities in case of occurrence of COVID-19
Measures and activities on preventing of occurrence of COVID-19
The Decree sets a long but non-exhaustive list of activities to be implemented. Some of them include the following:
- Before the start of work, to provide for written instructions and directions on measures and procedures for prevention of occurrence of the infectious disease.
- Non-contact measuring of temperature of employees and persons entering the employer’s premises.
- Providing for at least 2 meters of distance between the workers on the working place, projecting the workplace so as to decrease group work and direct contact between the employees, redistribution of working hours by introducing second or third shift with the decreased number of employees.
- Limiting the presence of a number of employees in working and accessory premises, so as to provide for a social distance of at least 2 meters and 4 square meters of free space per employee, if the nature of the business allows so.
- Providing for personal protection equipment, above all the protection masks and gloves
- In case of outsourced cleaning services, to keep evidence on implemented disinfection.
- To prevent ordering and delivery of food for employees to the premises of the employer
- Where possible, to provide for work in separate premises or to implement physical barriers and to limit the number of persons entering such premises
- The use of central climatization system is to be halted or decreased
Implementation and control of implementation of preventive measures
The officer for safety and health at work is to be involved in the making of the Plan and implementation of the preventive measures from the Plan. A specific duty of the officer shall be to prevent coming to work to persons having mild cough or increased body temperature.
Measures and activities in case of occurrence of COVID-19
The Decree shall introduce some specific measures and activities to be carried out in case of occurrence of the disease. This includes:
- Isolating of the employee and, where possible, providing for isolation space,
- reporting the occurrence of the symptoms of the disease immediately to the competent health institution.
The specific feature of the isolation duty is that employer is to isolate the employee having symptoms similar to flu or COVID-19.
In case of a confirmed case of COVID-19, the employer must inform all employees on their possible exposure to the virus at the workplace, obeying the data protection. Having in mind that heath data of the employee represents sensitive data, the employer should avoid disclosing the name of the infected employee.
In case of occurrence of the infection, the employer shall have the duty to define and control the directions of movement of employees.
Obligations of the employee
As one of the specific duties, the employee shall have to inform the employer in case of doubt on symptoms of the COVID 19 disease. This duty applies when the employee thinks that he/she or member of its family, or that another employee has the symptoms.
Clearly, safety and health at work are going to be the primary feature of employment during the process of relaxation of COVID 19-related measures. It goes without saying that the draft Decree shall put significant burden on employers. However, if they want their businesses going, employers have no option – they will have to take much more attention to health and safety at work. With this draft Decree, it seems that the job is going to be much more transparent and employers shall have a direction in following their duties on health and safety at work.