An employer is responsible for the safety, health, and hygiene of its employees in the workplace. Therefore, it is important to have preventive measures in place and to be aware of the guidelines indicated to us by the competent authorities (the Secretariat of Health, the World Health Organization, etc.) [in Spanish: la Secretaría de Salud and la Organización Mundial de la Salud respectively].
What is the function of the Health and Safety Commission?
To prevent and ensure that no work accidents occur, to propose preventive measures, as well as to investigate the causes of accidents and workplace illnesses, and to enforce compliance with the same.
Each company must have a mixed commission of health and safety that must be comprised of an equal number of representatives from both the employees and the employer, since it is the responsibility of every employer to form an established body, and each employee is potentially exposed to a work-related accident or illness (Articles. 509, Federal Labor Act; 7, Section. IV, and 45, Section. I, the Federal Regulation on Occupational Safety and Hygiene [in Spanish: el Reglamento Federal de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo].
It is important to consider the Official Mexican Standard [in Spanish: la Norma Oficial Mexicana], NOM-019-STPS-2011, relating to the formation, integration, organization, and operation of the health and safety commissions which must be in the workplace. The objective of this commission is to coordinate reviews of safety conditions, as well as those related to health that are present in the company.
A Mixed Commission of Health and Safety will propose additional measures to prevent any risk of COVID-19 infection among employees.
The Mexican Social Security Institute [in Spanish: IMSS], revealed the guidelines under which COVID-19 will be designated as a work-related illness, and for those frontline workers who are exposed (health sector); as well as those who continue working in priority sectors with economic activities.
Once it is declared a work-related illness, the disability payment must be covered 100% from day one, taking into consideration the daily contribution wage. If it is a general illness, 60% of the salary is paid from the fourth day on.
In circular No. 09 90 01300000/2020, the Mexican Social Security Institute explains in detail the procedure that must be followed in occupational medicine, in order to define the coronavirus infection as a work-related illness, considering the activities established by the authorities in the Secretariat of Health, as they are primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of attention, and in general healthcare team members from the public and private sector, who are: doctors and nurses from diagnostic ancillary services (laboratory and departments), physician assistant, those performing social work, respiratory therapy and dietetics, janitorial services, pathology service assistants, and any other job that has contact with patients in outpatient services, emergency room, rolling admissions, and intensive care”.
This also applies to those jobs in which the worker was exposed to infection from the coronavirus in the performance of his/her duties, that is, “they are at greater risk of infection than the general population, especially if they perform an essential work-related activity”, such as journalists, supermarket, pharmacy, and cleaning personnel, and other activities deemed essential.
This measure will mean an elevated degree of risk for employers when determining the contributions that must be covered for each employee, which could imply a 1% increase.
Moreover, an employee requires: that a medical opinion be filed that confirms the case, and only during phase 1 and 2 of the epidemic. In addition, it is considered a work-related illness if it is shown that the employee was exposed during the performance of his/her work, or if there is a work-related reason from another person with the coronavirus. In case of any reasonable doubt, it will be determined by the provisions in the Federal Labor Act [in Spanish: la Ley Federal del Trabajo].
Several weeks ago, the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), also issued guidelines for digitally processing all documents for eligible individuals who may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that produces the COVID-19 illness), thereby avoiding displacement and contacts for preventing the spreading of the disease.
It is advisable to hold frequently a session of the Mixed Commission of Health and Safety during this contingency, in order to document the identified cases and to establish new necessary measures for avoiding the propagation of the virus, which will entail an increase in the work hazard insurance premium.