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Workplace advice

Published Updated

The article provides advice for workplaces, and advice about working from home and flexible working hours.

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The article provides advice for workplaces, and advice about working from home and flexible working hours.


The Government has introduced stricter national infection control measures, see government.no for the current recommendations and regulation changes. The measures will last as long as they are needed, and the situation will be continuously assessed.

The municipalities can introduce stricter measures locally, based on the infection situation. Check the website of your municipality for information about local measures. 

Purpose

This article gives advice on how companies can manage infection control in the workplace.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has produced a general infection control guideline that industries, services and organisations can use to produce their own infection control guideline or industry standard adapted to their activity. In this template, there is detailed advice for work places.  

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health have also prepared a guide for the use of home office:

Planning and risk assessment

The company is responsible for ensuring that operations take place in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

  • Management is responsible for ensuring that operations take infection control into account, and placing responsibility for various tasks in connection with the infection control advice.

  • The occupational health service and / or the municipal health service can be contacted if assistance is needed to assess the risk of infection and prepare action plans.

  • Management must provide the necessary training and information to employees and visitors / users.

  • See Koronavirus: Tiltak i arbeidslivet (Arbeidstilsynet) for advice on risk assessment.

  • Information material and posters about COVID-19 can be found on the Norwegian Directorate of Health's website

Continuity planning

Workplaces should prepare for employees to be absent from work because of illness or quarantine.

  • The company establish permanent work teams with employees that cannot mix with each other. Groups can change composition weekly, after a weekend.
  • In this way, it is possible to avoid that all employees within a function are exposed to infection / quarantined in the event of a positive case of COVID-19.
  • Workers can be divided into teams that alternate between working from home and physical presence.

Company's role in contact tracing

The municipal health service is responsible for follow-up around cases of COVID-19 (contact tracing), and shall notify the company if employees or users / visitors are confirmed to be ill. The municipal health service must decide the necessary measures, such as defining who are close contacts to the patient and therefore must be in quarantine.

  • The company shall help arrange an overview of close contacts.

  • The municipal health service and the company's management shall collaborate on information for employees and users / visitors.

  • All those involved will require information, and this need must be balanced against the duty of confidentiality and privacy considerations.

Preventing infection

The main infection control measures are:

  1. Sick people should stay at home.

  2. Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and thorough cleaning.

  3. Keep the recommended distance to others than close contacts and generally limit contact frequency.

The most important measure is for sick people to stay at home. Cough etiquette and keeping a distance are important to limit droplet transmission, while hand hygiene, and particularly avoiding touching the face with contaminated hands prevents indirect contact transmission. Consider intensified cleaning, especially for frequent touch points. Increased physical distance between people reduces the possibility for transmission, also before symptoms appear.

Sick people should stay at home

It is important that people with even mild respiratory symptoms do not attend physically at work or in other contexts where they meet others. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild and difficult to distinguish from other respiratory tract infections:

  • Employees, users / visitors and others should stay home if they develop a fever or symptoms of a respiratory tract infection, and follow current testing recommendations.

  • Employees who become ill while at work must leave as soon as possible. 

  • People who have had a respiratory infection can return to the workplace as long as they are in good general condition (i.e. feel well and have no fever) and have a negative test for COVID-19

  • People who are in quarantine and isolation must not show up at the workplace.

  • Exemption from the quarantine for employees in critical functions to society based on the COVID-19 regulations are discussed in Other exemptions from the quarantine duty (NIPH)

It is important that the company communicates information about these points to employees, visitors, customers and others.

Cleaning, hand hygiene and cough etiquette

Cleaning:

The company’s routines should ensure sufficiently good cleaning.

Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette:

The company should facilitate good hand hygiene for employees and visitors. Both hand washing and alcohol-based hand disinfection are good, effective methods for hand hygiene.

Hand hygiene facilities should be clearly visible and accessible where people are in close contact, and the location should be appropriate and predictable:

  • At the entrance / exit
  • Common areas such as waiting rooms, reception, meeting rooms, etc.
  • Places where food is served, such as canteen / communal kitchen
  • Other areas after assessment

 

Face masks

In situations with increased or high infection burden in society, and where it is difficult to keep your distance, face masks can be recommended as a measure to reduce the risk of transmission. However, face masks do not replace other measures, they are a supplement.

Ventilation and airing

The risk of infection may be increased in rooms with poor ventilation, especially when many people are gathered. Normal use of ventilation and normal maintenance of the ventilation system are recommended. Increasing the degree of ventilation in already well-ventilated rooms can potentially increase the risk of transmission. In crowded rooms without mechanical ventilation, air regularly.

Measures to limit contact

Reduced contact with others is a measure that will reduce the risk of transmission from people who have not yet developed symptoms or are aware that they are contagious. To achieve this, increase the distance between people and reduce the number of people who are gathered. Where possible, maintain a distance of at least one metre between people throughout the entire working day. People can pass each other and be in the same area for a short time without greater risk of infection. Close face-to-face contact should be avoided.

To reduce contact and ensure distance between people, the following factors should be considered:

  • Distance must be kept in all situations (at workstations, during breaks and meetings, at entrances, in lifts etc).
  • Consider how many people may be present depending on the area available.
  • Consider removing chairs from meeting rooms and canteens / eating areas, or use every other workplace
  • Organise employees / users in small groups / work teams, so that the number of contacts is limited. The groups should consist of the same people over time.
  • Consider flexible working hours to spread activity and groups / work teams over time.
  • Home office for employees where possible, one or more days per week, to reduce the number of people who are at work at the same time (see below).
  • Consider the use of digital meetings as an alternative to physical meetings, if it is not possible to maintain a good distance or if there are many participants.

For seminars, conferences, courses and other professional gatherings, guidelines and recommendations for events apply.

Working from home and flexible working hours

Working from home is an important measure to reduce contact between people, both in the workplace and on public transport. The company should consider whether home office shall be used in addition to othet measures in the workplace.

Even when a home office is recommended as a general rule, it should only be used for as long as is practically possible, and only where the company can maintain a good quality service using digital solutions. For some services, including mental health, vulnerable users, immigrants, children and adolescents, building relations and providing reassurance are important and often cannot be replaced by digital services. It is important to consider whether the service quality is equitable when digital solutions are used, and is perceived to be good and available for everyone.

For some, working from home is difficult due to psychosocial / social conditions, domestic situation, etc. The employer should make it possible for people with a need to be fully or partially present at work to do so.

Working from home is relevant as an infection control measure if:

  • Transmission in the local community or the workplace is high.

  • Recommended distance between people on public transport to and from the workplace cannot be maintained.

  • Recommended distance between people in the workplace cannot be maintained.

  • Other infection control measures make it necessary (for example, when using home schooling).

  • It is necessary to ensure business continuity in a situation where the risk of absenteeism is high.

A checklist of points to consider has been written - see further below.

Risk groups

Home office or other facilitation of work is relevant for people with an increased risk of a severe course of COVID-19. Such an assessment should be made individually. A medical certificate may be needed.

For up-to-date information on people who may be at higher risk for COVID-19: Risk groups and their relatives.

Work travel and transport

Transport to and from the workplace

If it is difficult to keep the recommended distance on public transport to work, the company should consider other measures to prevent employees from travelling by public transport. It may be through working from home, or facilitation for use of another mode of travel, such as bicycle / electric bicycle, or availability of parking spaces.

Business travel

The infection control advice for travel is being updated continuously and can change quickly. Companies and employees should familiarise themselves with the advice that applies to travel in Norway and abroad, and which quarantine rules apply after travel abroad. An uipdated overview of current guidelines and more information can be found here:

Exemption from quarantine duty for employees in functions critical to society

The COVID-19 regulations stipulate a quarantine duty for close contacts and after travel abroad. The regulations allow for certain exemptions from quarantine duty. Business management must familiarise themselves with current regulations and carefully assess the need for such an exemption. The employer should strive for alternative solutions, such as the possibility of reallocating personnel from other parts of the business or the possibility of downgrading activity.

If an exemption is granted, testing and other infection control measures must be followed up carefully. More information can be found here:

Employees who are in entry quarantine must stay in quarantine hotels. Employers or clients must submit confirmation of a suitable place of residence if workers are to be exempt from quarantine hotels.

Advice to sectors where employees live on site - construction companies, shipyards, ships, etc.

Workplaces where employees live for periods in barracks or similar accommodation in close proximity to each other will be particularly vulnerable to transmission. Therefore, it is especially important to intensify hygiene measures and limit contact between employees in these workplaces.

See Råd til steder hvor mange bor (asylmottak, hybelhus, brakker, fengsel, båter etc.) 

Evaluating the use of working from home

National/local situation

Assessments

National or local infection burden

- National infection situation

- Local infection situation (local and national health authorities)

Public transport situation

 - The need for contact reducing measures to avoid congestion in public places and on public transport (local and national health authorities)

Local situation

Assessments

Can work be done from home?

- Working from home should only be done where the business can maintain a good quality service using digital solutions See above for assessments for services aimed at children, adolescents and other vulnerable groups.

Working from home

For many companies, a partial working from home solution, where employees have a home office one or more days per week, can be a good way to reduce the number of people who are at work at the same time. Aspects for assessment are:

- Tasks someone must be in the workplace to perform

- Ergonomic and social considerations, travel route, etc.

- Ensure a minimum of physical connection to the workplace

- Conducting meetings / conversations that are poorly suited for digital implementation

High-risk employees

 - Working from home should be considered for people with increased risk for severe COVID-19, if other adaptation of work is not possible or relevant

Employees with mild respiratory symptoms or in quarantine

  - If possible, home office solution should be organised for employees who need to be home but who are able to work

Is it possible to maintain recommended distance commuting to work? (the workplace)

 - Evaluate employees' need to travel by public transport

  - Consider whether the employer can offer alternatives (bicycles, increased parking, etc.)

  - Working from home to maintain distance between people on public communication is especially relevant for workplaces where many employees use such transport for travel to and from the workplace

Is it possible to maintain recommended distance through the working day? (the workplace)

 

 - Systematically map all areas of the workplace

 - Focus areas: work station / office space / office landscape, entrances, elevators, meeting rooms, canteens, changing rooms etc.

Meetings

- Digital meetings are recommended if the nature of the work permits

 - In case of physical meetings, adequate size of premises must be ensured to maintain distance, as well as the applicable group size and event guidelines.

Continuity planning

 - Companies that rely on continuity in the operation of critical functions may consider using permanent work teams or groups of employees to prevent all employees within the function from being exposed to infection at the same time
 - Workers can be divided into teams that alternate with home office and physical presence

Travel

 - Digital meetings are recommended if the nature of the work permits. Separate travel advice applies

 

History

22.02.2021 Full revision, as per Norwegian version

25.01.2021 Added new, stricter measures in 25 municipalities in Eastern Norway

19.01.2021: Updated according to Government's recommendations

04.01.2021: Updated according to Government's recommendations about working from home from 04.01 and two weeks onwards

30.10.2020: Added sentence in "If someone in the household of an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19"

28.10.2020: Added paragraph with advice for sectors where workers live on site

04.09.2020: Explained what is meant by good general condition.

27.08.2020: Updated bullet points in the section "Sick people should stay at home" under people who can be physically present and people who cannot be physically present at the workplace.

12.08.2020: "Green areas" changed to "yellow areas"

14.07.2020 Added a paragraph about work travel in Nordic and EU/EEA/Schengen areas under "Transport to and from work"

29.05.2020: added link to article on Government's webpage about impending changes to quarantine rules.

22.5.2020: Text revised as per Norwegian version.

08.05.2020
Changed quarantine duration from 14 to 10 days


05.05.2020
Text revised as per Norwegian version, added more advice about working from home. Removed advice to universities.

24.03.2020
Moved section about advice for specific sectors to its own article, as per Norwegian text.

19.03.2020
Added advice for different sectors

17.03.2020
Text updated to reflect Norwegian text

13.03.2020

General update throughout the text to reflect the Norwegian version

12.03.2020 
Added advice about avoiding shaking hands, hugging and kissing

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