Back from home office – labour protection risk management

Due to the measures of the Government aimed at the easement of the outdoor access bans, introduced since 4 May 2020 first in respect of the territory out of Budapest and later in respect of Budapest as well (as described in details in our previous newsletters), the actors of the economy now consider the restoration of the previous working conditions and work schedule instead of the home office.

In this respect, besides the strict obeyance of the protective measures ordered by the Government for the term of the emergency situation and the prevailing work protection laws, the employers should also consider the following provisions, according to which a healthy and safe work environment shall be ensured (including, for example, preliminary measures to be taken by the operator of the property where the workplace is located, like the provision of emergency management of heating and cooling equipment, sterilizing, cleaning, etc., the preliminary provision of information to employees, the adoption of the necessary rules concerning the employees [like wearing of mask or shawl in common premises, keeping the 1.5 metres protective distance, hand disinfecting] and ensuring the compliance with such rules by the employees).

Pursuant to section 54(2) of the Work Protection Act, the employer shall have a preliminary risk assessment, in which it shall assess from qualitative and (if necessary) from a quantitative point of view of the risks endangering the health and the safety of the employees, the joint effect of the probability and severity of injuries and health deterioration the employee may suffer in an emergency situation, with special regard to the work tools, hazardous materials and mixtures, the loads on the employees and the structure of the workplace.

In the risk assessment, the employer shall (i) identify the expectable dangers (source of danger, dangerous situations, physical, chemical and biological causal agents), (ii) identify the scope of the imperiled, (iii) identify the rate of the risk according to the nature of the danger, (iv) assess the risks and the level of probability of keeping these risks at the minimum, (v) identify the factors that aggravate the risks and (vi) document the necessary preventive measures, with the identification of the respective deadlines and responsible persons.

The risk assessment shall be performed primarily before the commencement of the activity (like before moving to a new office, before the introduction of new technology or new activity). Thereafter, the assessment shall be repeated in each 3 (three) years, at least (except if the respective laws provide for a more frequent assessment, like in the case of employees exposed to noise, dust, or biological factors).

In addition, the risk assessment, risk management, and the definition of the necessary preventive measures shall be performed in other cases as well, if reasonable and justified.

Pursuant to the Work protection Act, a reasonable and justified case shall mean:

(a) if the activity, the applied technology, the work tool or the working method is changed,
(b) in case of introduction of any change in respect of the original activity that leads to the change of the work conditions affecting the health and safety of the employees, including the work climate, the noise- and vibration load, the air conditions (qualitative or quantitative changes in the air pollutants of gas, dust or fibers),
(c) the occurrence of occupation accidents, increased exposure or occupational diseases if these result from deficiencies of the activity, the applied technology, the work tool or the working method,
(d) if the risk assessment did not cover an aspect required by a specific legal provision.

The risk assessment shall be prepared with the involvement of a work protection officer having proper qualification (or by an external service provider having the same responsibility) and an occupational health service provider / professional.

After the risk assessment, considering the establishments thereof, the employer shall define the method, the organizational, and preventive measures to be applied for the sake of protection.

HENCE, if the employees are ordered to return to the office from the previous home office working method, this may qualify as a case falling under the scope of the above point (a), that may require the performance of a risk assessment.

We would like to note that several articles were published in the papers in this regard, stating that the omission of the performance of the risk assessment may involve the imposing of a fine amounting to HUF 50,000 – 10,000,000. In this respect, we emphasize that the breach of work protection rules by the employer may imply the imposing of a fine if such breach materially endangers the life, health, or physical integrity of the employee. Pursuant to the respective law, material endangering shall mean in particular the omission of the preparation of the risk assessment, if that affects an employee belonging to the highest hazard class or that happens in those particular cases defined in the law on the protection of employees exposed to the effects of certain hazards.