Health guidelines for construction companies in the covid-19 context
In France the Health guidelines for ongoing construction activities during the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic (Guide de préconisations de sécurité sanitaire pour la continuité des activités de la construction en période d’épidémie de coronavirus Covid-19), eagerly awaited since 21 March 2020, were finally published on 2 April (the “Guidelines”). The document can be downloaded here:
Drafted by the experts of the French Professional body for building and public works prevention (the “OPPBTP”), with the support of doctors and other medical professionals, the Guidelines list specific urgent measures to be implemented so as to ensure the health conditions of employees working in offices, workshops, warehouses or on construction sites. These Guidelines come in addition to any sanitary measures adopted by French public authorities.
When is it mandatory to wear a mask?
The Guidelines have been approved by the French Ministries of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Cities and Housing, Solidarity and Health, and Labour. The document starts with a clear notice: “In the context of the health crisis of exceptional magnitude, the OPPBTP insists on the extreme necessity for all actors in the building and public works sector to strictly follow the outlined instructions and, if they are unable to follow them, to stop all related activities”.
Pursuant to the Guidelines, workers are required to wear a mask whenever working: less than one metre away from another worker (with no other possible operating solution) or with sick individuals or individuals with fragile health.
In all other circumstances, according to French government indications, wearing a masks is not mandatory, and must be discussed within each company. In any event, as long as the mask shortage in France persists, priority must be given to healthcare workers.
The Guidelines contain tips on how to use a mask: how to put it on, take it off, take care of a filtered mask, disposing of a mask… One minor detail: it is recommended to shave when wearing an FFP mask. One can also find a description of the different types of masks, the circumstances in which they are suitable…
23 pages of detailed instructions
The Guidelines comprises 23 pages of instructions. The first 8 pages contain general instructions and specific instructions according to the situations, places of work and type of personnel.
For instance, the Guidelines recall that high-risk personnel – such as diabetics… – are not allowed to work in the same area as other staff. Whenever required, high-risk personnel must be on sick leave. Also, each company is required to designate a “COVID-19 consultant” per worksite in charge of coordinating and enforcing measures to be implemented.
The Guidelines highlight that current working conditions are more dangerous than usual due to the fewer personnel present, less equipment and fewer subcontractors onsite. Workers should thus pay more attention than usual on construction sites to falling, collisions, electrical risks, machinery, chemicals…
The Guidelines list the supplies needed to comply with outlined health and safety instructions:
- Disinfectant such as diluted bleach, 70° alcohol, Anios Oxy’floor or Phagosurf ND,
- Disinfecting wipes type WIP’Anios to be used on handles, computer keyboard, toilet seat, vehicles, machines, tools…,
- Liquid soap,
- Disposable hand wipes,
- Pedal bins with lids so as to dispose of used hygienic products,
- Garbage bags,
- Ordinary work gloves,
- Disposable gloves to handle waste bins and to clean/disinfect,
- If there is no water access onsite, water containers must be put in place clearly marked as “hand washing water”,
- Hydroalcoholic gel or solution (in addition, if available),
- Respirator masks, surgical masks or more protective (in addition and for specific activities).
Strict instructions for vehicles, machines and interior spaces
All instructions outlined in the Guidelines are binding. In the event a vehicle or machine is shared by two or more workers, all contact surfaces (including the steering wheel, control buttons, gear shift handle…) must be disinfected at each change of user. Disinfectant wipes, hydroalcoholic gel or solutions should be provided for this purpose.
The Guidelines recommend individual facilities for all workers, except office spaces. They also recommend installing hand washing stations before the entrance of interior spaces, as well as providing wipes in the toilets to disinfect them before use.
Two pages deal with working conditions themselves and detail activities inside private homes and on the premises of present clients.
Page 9 and following of the OPPBTP Guidelines contain 8 recommendations regarding specific issues, including: a questionnaire to determine an employee’s health, the procedure to declare a person at risk, advice on wearing a mask, checklist to prepare work sites, intervention protocol at a high risk individual’s home, intervention protocol at the home of an individual diagnosed with COVID-19, working at an individual’s home, how to act in the presence of a sick individual.
The Guidelines not only provide information on the safety conditions to be implemented, but also emphasize that if the outlined safety instructions cannot be followed, work activities must be stopped. It therefore provides a rational assessment method for construction companies to decide whether to continue or suspend their activities.
The Guidelines are especially binding for emergency services and maintenance companies, whenever working at an at-risk individual’s home.
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice addressed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based upon the information contained herein without first seeking professional, individualized counsel based upon your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Information by ALARIS AVOCATS, English speaking lawyers in France (Paris) specialized in French labor law, especially any kinds of Social Plans, dismissal procedures and labor contract clauses.