The protection of workers health and safety is a general obligation laying on the employer under Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code and the Consolidated Health and Safety Act (Legislative Decree No. 81/2008). The health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic adds to the general legislative frame work specific rules for the protection of workers contained in the urgent measures approved by the Italian government during 2020 (Law no.13/2020, D.P.C.M. March 11 and 22, 2020), and in the Protocol for the Regulation of Anti-contagious Safety Measures in the workplace signed on March 14, 2020 containing guidelines for companies.
Apart from the extreme remedy of temporary suspension for non-essential production activities (except for remote work), with reference to essential activities to be performed in presence obligations and recommendations for employers have been introduced:
1) suspension/reduction of the activity of departments not essential to production, with maximum use of remote work;
2) management of production and shifts (using social shock absorbers, vacations and leaves) by forming autonomous groups;
3) Interpersonal distance between workers and individual protective equipment (masks, gloves);
4) management of common and entry/exit areas;
5) prohibition of in-person meetings;
6) restricted movements in production sites and limited access by visitors/suppliers;
7) sanitation procedures in the workplace including tools used to carry out work (e.g. screens, keyboards);
8) obligations to inform workers with reference to anti-contagious measures;
9) employer’s right to obtain information useful for assessing the risk of contagiousness of workers. In compliance with personal data protection regulations, employers may order the measurement of employees’ temperature or request information about their contact with areas at risk).
10) Management of symptomatic workers by the employer, who will provide for the isolation of the person and others present, the reporting to the competent health authorities, the definition of close contacts in collaboration with health authorities. Health surveillance activities (e.g., preventive visits, on demand and upon return of illness). Adoption of prevention and safety measures also on the basis of company peculiarities in collaboration with trade union representatives. Establishment of company committees to verify compliance with the protocol.
A specific sector: medical and healthcare workers
Medical and healthcare workers are the most exposed to the risk of Covid-19 contagion, a risk of biological nature against which Italian law requires the assumption of specific safety measures provided by:
a) Protocol for the prevention and safety of workers in the health, social and welfare services signed on March 24, 2020. It provides that the employer shall assess the risk of exposure to Covid-19 infection of staff in order to ensure appropriate personal protective equipment, such as to offer a level of protection to workers higher than that deemed adequate by technical and scientific bodies. It also requires that medical and paramedical personnel be periodically tested for Covid-19 infection. Finally, the constant sanitization of workplaces must be guaranteed. The protocol also prescribes the need to define a homogeneous procedure throughout the country that establishes the paths of health surveillance to which all workers must be subjected, and in particular those who come into contact with Covid-19 positive patients.
b) Note issued on March 17, 2020 by INAIL (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work), providing that Covid-19 contagions of doctors, nurses and other workers employed by the National Health Service and other public or private health facility insured with the Institute, occurring in the work environment or due to the performance of work activities (including the journey to and from work), are considered as occupational accidents with consequent compensation right.
Milan, 22 January 2021
Avv. Laura Palumbo