The number of infections continue to be high despite drastic measures in all areas of life. The SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance (SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung, Corona-ArbSchV), adopted on 20 January 2021, aims to further reduce the risk of infection at work and ensure the safety and health of workers. The validity of the ordinance is initially limited to 15 March 2021. The following is a brief overview of the main contents:
In the case of office work or comparable activities, the employer must offer the employees the opportunity to perform these activities from home if there are no compelling operational reasons that speak against it. In doing so, the employer must decide on the reasons that speak against it and explain them to the competent authority on request.
Furthermore, working from home is subject to the consent of the employee. In addition, in order to implement work in a home office, it is necessary that the employer and the employee have reached a corresponding agreement, e.g. by means of a provision in the employment contract or by way of a company agreement.
Company-related gatherings such as meetings are to be kept to the absolute minimum. If this is not possible for operational reasons, further protective measures are required. The installation of suitable partitions between the persons present can be considered here. To reduce the risk of infection in rooms, intensive and proper ventilation is also recommended.
If it is necessary for more than one person to be present in a room at the same time, the rooms must have a minimum area of 10 square metres per person, insofar as the activity to be carried out permits this. The specified minimum area serves to reduce operational contact and is based on the defined sales space per person in wholesale and retail trade. If the activities to be carried out conflict with the described reduction in the number of persons present, the employer must ensure the protection of workers by other equally suitable measures, e.g. partitions or a ventilation concept.
As a further measure to reduce contact in the workplace, the formation of fixed teams will be made compulsory in companies with more than ten employees. These teams should, as far as possible, have no contact with other people outside their own team.
This is to prevent infection between teams and thus the spread of infection in the company. Necessary quarantine measures can thus be limited to the respective team, if necessary, so that disruptions to the operational process are reduced. In addition, this should make it easier to work in different shifts and reduce the times, break rooms, canteens and changing rooms are shared.
The employer must provide medical face masks, FFP2 masks or comparable respiratory protective masks if there is more than one person per 10 square metres in a room, if the distance of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained or if activities are likely to involve a risk of increased aerosol emissions. A hazard due to increased aerosol emission may be present, for example, if people have to speak particularly loudly due to ambient noise. Disposable comparable respiratory protective masks must be disposed of after use. In addition, comparable respiratory protective masks must be changed in the event of moisture penetration. Employees shall be instructed on the correct donning and doffing of the respiratory protective masks and that the masks fit tightly to provide adequate protection. Information on the type of respiratory protection masks permissible for use in the operational environment from the point of view of the legislator can be found in the Annex to the Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance.