By means of the Government Decision no. 394/2020, on May 18, on the entire territory of Romania, the state of alert has been established, for a period of 30 days. Thus, employers are forced to take certain measures to ensure that they safely perform their activities, measures which will be further detailed in subsequent orders.
Moreover, article 71 paragraph (2) of Law no. 55/2020 provides that the measures to be applied during the state of alert will be adopted by order of the relevant ministers, at the proposal of the National Committee for Special Emergency Situations (CNSSU).
The relevant orders in this matter are:
- In the field of labour and social protection, the measures were adopted by Order no. 3577/831/2020 regarding measures taken to prevent contamination with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and to conduct workplace activities in conditions of safety (hereinafter “Order 3577”), a joint order of the Minister of Labour and Social Protection and the Minister of Health;
- Order no. 874/81/2020 on the establishment of the obligation to wear a protective mask, epidemiological screening and hand disinfection measures (“Order 874”) which details, among others, the procedure which must be followed for epidemiological screening;
- Order 1731/832/2020 of the Minister of Economy, Energy and the Environment (hereinafter “Order 1731”).
1. Order 3577
1.1. Measures regarding the reorganization of the activity and the prevention of occupational risks
Order 3577 provides for an extensive list of obligations incumbent on the employer, to ensure that workplace activities are undertaken in conditions of health and safety. The order applies to all employers, in both the public sector and the private sector. The definition of employer is given by Law no. 319/2006 regarding the conditions of safety and health at the workplace: a natural or legal person who is in employment or service relations with the respective worker and who has the responsibility of the enterprise and/or unit.
With respect to the obligations of employers provided in Order 3577, the Order also provides correlative obligations for employees to comply with the required measures, to wear masks at work, to accept temperature check etc.
Thus, employers are required to:
- retrain in the field of occupational health and safety all the workers who stayed at home during the state of emergency, who were technically unemployed, teleworking, working from home, etc. - the retraining will be adapted to the new risks caused by the pandemic and will take place during regular working hours;
- ensure appropriate training for workers' representatives with specific responsibilities in the field of occupational health and safety;
- establish which activities can be continued or adapted, depending on the specifics of each activity and the available resources, and implement measures to reopen/continue its activities, including by carrying out workplace activities in telework or work-from-home manners;
- consult with the employee representatives which have specific responsibilities in the field of occupational health and safety and, as the case may be, with the members of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee;
- ensure that the circulation of documents within the unit takes place mainly by electronic means;
- review their prevention and protection plan;
- review and notify the employees about the instructions regarding the safety and health at the workplace.
1.2. Measures regarding the informing of employees
Employers are required to:
- display at the entrance of the offices and in visible places the rules of mandatory conduct for the prevention of infection of employees and of all persons entering the space which the employer is responsible for;
- inform the employees, mainly by electronic means, about:
- the risks of infection and spread of the virus;
- the measures and rules applicable within the unit;
- the rules for managing situations where employees or people who have access to the workplace show symptoms of infection with the virus.
- to inform employees regarding general-purpose precautions (social distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, limited contact between persons).
1.3. Measures limiting persons’ access to the workplace
In order to fulfil their obligations, employers are required to:
- ensure special corridors for employee access and circulation, so as to avoid congestion;
- limit the access of persons in common areas and ensure social distance in these areas;
- establish certain rules so as to avoid situations where spontaneous, unsecured groups of people might form accidentally inside the institution;
- apply strips marking the recommended distance between persons (1.5 meters) in workplaces where public access is allowed, and recommend, to the extent that weather conditions permit it, that people waiting in line outside the building also maintain a distance of at least 1.5 m;
- establish staggered meal breaks so as to ensure a distance of 1.5 m is maintained between persons at all times;
- reorganize the workplace such that physical distance can be maintained between the employees, by establishing a maximum number of people who can work in the same room. If the desks are too close to each other, plastic dividers can be installed between them, to the extent possible;
- limit traveling outside of the workplace only to situations where it is strictly necessary to the undertaking of the employer’s activities and ensure that, in these situations, traveling takes place in compliance with a minimum set of conditions for prevention.
1.4. Measures to prevent infection and to protect employees:
To prevent employees’ infection with COVID-19, employers must:
- delegate a person responsible for checking the temperature of all persons entering the premises of the institution (both its staff and its visitors);
- ensure the observational screening of the employees at the beginning of working hours, but also whenever is considered necessary during working hours.
- place disinfectant dispensers at the entrance of the premises and in each sector of the workplace;
- if a person shows symptoms of infection, prohibit the person's access to the unit and interrupt the employer/employee/other person's contact with the symptomatic person;
- ventilate the offices at least once a day;
- disinfect, at least once a week, the railings, doorknobs and window handles in the unit, and any other frequently used areas, as well as common areas and work spaces;
- avoid using the air conditioning system or, if it is impossible to do so, must ensure the nebulization and disinfection of the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer's instructions, outside working hours;
- stock the toilets, locker rooms and dining rooms with soap and disinfectant solutions;
- ensure that other persons (e.g. suppliers, clients etc) entering the premises will comply with the established protection measures;
- ensure ongoing communication with the occupational doctor/service in order to monitor the health of employees so that they benefit from preventive measures.
1.5. Speacial measures for people who are suspected/confirmed as being infected
If an employee has respiratory symptoms and/or a body temperature higher than 37.3 degrees and/or altered general health condition, he/she will be immediately isolated from the rest of the staff and sent to his home or to the medical unit, depending on the severity of the situation.
The subsequent measures to be taken depend on the period of time that has elapsed since the last contact with the person concerned. If less than 7 days have elapsed since the last contact with the person concerned, the rooms where he/she has stayed in for more than 20 minutes must be closed down, the room must be mechanically ventilated and the office must only be disinfected after a period of 24 hours has passed.
If more than 7 days have elapsed since contact with a person suspected/confirmed as being infected, no additional hygiene or disinfection measures are required.
Moreover, in both cases, the employer must notify the people who had contact with that person for a period longer than 20 minutes, without respecting the recommended physical distance of 1.5 m and without wearing a facial mask, and these people must be isolated at home for 14 days.
1.6. Optional measures
Order 3577 also establishes certain optional measures, for which compliance is not mandatory. For example, employers can create certain spaces which are specially designated for employees who are part of a vulnerable category (e.g. suffer from chronic diseases or are over 65 years old). Similarly, employers can provide specific personal protective equipment (such as facial masks and gloves) meant to protect against the spread of the virus.
Regarding the work schedule, Order 3577 mentions that employers can individualize the schedule of employees working in closed offices, so as to reduce the physical contact between people as much as possible. If there are more than 50 employees, the schedule can be individualized so that there is a minimum of one hour between them at the beginning and the end of the work schedule, for at least three hours, in groups of at least 20% of personnel. It is important to note that the individualization of the program, in both cases, must not affect the normal work schedule.
2. Order 1731
Some measures to protect employees have also been adopted by Order 1731/832/2020 of the Minister of Economy, Energy and the Environment, which, in Article 2, approves a series of recommendations regarding workplace activities in offices with common areas (open spaces).
Employers are required to:
- ensure a staggered work schedule, in order to avoid congestion at the entrance / exit of the premises and to limit the number of employees present, at the same time, in the same premises;
- provide observational screening of employees and prohibit the presence of people who show symptoms of infection;
- ensure the measurement of employees’ body temperature every day, at the beginning of their shift; employees with a body temperature above 37.3° C will be sent home and advised to consult with their general practitioner;
- reorganize their offices so as to ensure a distance of 1.5m between employees working at desks which are oriented front-to-back and back-to-back, and to install plastic dividers which will be disinfected daily for those working at desks which are oriented face-to-face;
- ensure the disinfection of the work surfaces at the beginning of the work schedule and, subsequently, once every 4 hours;
- organize staggered lunch breaks so that the recommended physical distance of at least 2m is respected;
- in the case of air conditioned rooms, employers must provide for the nebulization of the air conditioning system once every week, preferably at the end of the week, and perform a disinfection of the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. Order 874
With regard to own staff, the screening is performed by measuring the temperature with a non-contact thermometer and by observing respiratory signs and symptoms. If the person's temperature is higher than 37.3 degrees, it is recommended to repeat the measurement after a rest period of 2-5 minutes. If the temperature remains above 37.3 degrees and/or the person has other respiratory symptoms, the employee will be sent to the general practitioner for a medical consultation. In addition, each person in charge of each unit is required to ensure the observational screening of directly subordinated employees. The monitoring of the employee's health will be performed by the occupational medicine doctor.
With regard to visitors, their entry into the premises is only allowed if necessary. As in the case of employees, the epidemiological screening will be performed by measuring body temperature with a non-contact thermometer, multiple times if necessary, and by observing respiratory signs and symptoms. The person with a temperature higher than the indicated threshold and/or who has other respiratory symptoms is not allowed to enter the premises. Otherwise, he/she will enter the premises only accompanied by a person from the office, after the place where he/she will go has been registered.
In addition, Order 874 establishes the obligation for employees to wear a protective mask in the workplace, in accordance with the general hygiene instructions contained in the annex to the order. By means of that annex, the employer is obliged to develop its own procedures based on the risk assessment for each employee, depending on the work schedule, the specifics of the activity carried out, the organizational structure, the structure of the premises. The risk assessment and the establishment of the conditions under which the mask will be worn will be performed by the occupational doctor.