Employers shall update the risk assessment of the workplaces to reflect the COVID-19 outbreak
Now is a time of state emergency in Bulgaria and all resources are invested in the COVID-19 outbreak management. There is no doubt that a key question all employers are now facing is whether the specifics of their business allow for the implementation of the “work from home” option. Respectively, how dangerous it is for their employees who work “on field” to continue performing their day-to-day functions given the risk of contamination.
The competent Bulgarian authorities which manage the COVID-19 crisis in Bulgaria have not provided any criteria to answer these questions. It is left therefore to the employers’ discretion to decide if they may safely continue their operations and ask employees to come in the workplace or if the business is to be temporary closed with all negative economic consequences thereof. Employers are to make this decision considering that they bear responsibility for the employees’ health and lives.
Therefore, the employers must base their decision on the updated risk assessment of the workplace. The update needs to evaluate the COVID-19 spread and to envisage specific technical and organizational measures to minimize the risk of contamination. The risk assessment is updated by the employer following consultations with the labor medicine office which is to provide concrete suggestions for measures to be implemented. Employers however remain responsible for the strict compliance with the adopted measures.
The update of the risk assessment also needs to reflect the instructions of the General state inspector that have been shared with the unions of employers in Bulgaria. Those instructions contain anti-epidemic measures that aim at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus among employees.
The updated risk assessments may contain the following organizational measures:
- Assessment of the level of possibility that the disease may spread at the employer – what is the likelihood that the employees may be exposed to a risk of contamination given the specifics of their day-to-day activities? Some material questions here include: do the employees have direct contact with third parties other than their colleagues; are the employees’ working stations distant enough (at least 1 – 1,5 meter away); are there too many employees in one premise (such as “open space offices”);
- Performance of an emergency instruction to all employees so that they are informed on the potential risks related to the spreading of the virus and the mitigation measures undertaken by the employer;
- Establishing a new cleaning protocol where the premises are cleaned (including disinfected) in shorter intervals and the employees are provided with more physiological breaks so that they have enough time for their personal hygiene;
- Establishing a procedure to be followed to inform employees in the event a colleague is diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Introducing a procedure to be followed if it is established that an employee has been in contact with a sick individual.
The technical measures employers may implement include:
- Provision of sanitizers and other disinfectants to be used by the employees;
- Provision of personal protection measures for the employees – masks, gloves and other as needed depending on the specific activities performed by the employees;
- Ensuring special containers to be used for the waste generated using protection measures by the employees.
The employer issues an order to update the risk assessment once the consultations with the labor medicine office are finalized.
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