IMSS will give its approval for companies to reopen

Companies must have a protocol in place to protect their collaborators; they will self-evaluate to confirm whether the plan complies with the requirements of the health authorities.

Construction, mining and manufacturing of transportation equipment companies, included last week in the list of essential activities, must have the authorization of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) to resume activities starting this week, after being closed due to the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

In accordance with the Technical Guidelines for Health Safety in the Labor Environment, published by the Ministry of Economy (SE), once companies comply with the requirements, the IMSS will have 72 hours to approve or reject the request for reopening. The agency will evaluate the information provided by the companies in regard to the contagion prevention measures. At first, companies will self-evaluate.

On May 14, the federal government expanded the list of essential activities; that is, those tasks for which employees are permitted to attend the work center during the Healthy Distance Period.

However, in order to reopen, they must first create a protocol to protect their workers. Companies within the construction, mining and transportation industry, which includes the automotive, aerospace, rail and shipping industries who are interested in reopening, are required to follow the procedure.

The document issued by the SE states that it will be mandatory for the abovementioned protocols to be based on the guidelines prepared by the Department of Health (SSA) in conjunction with the Department of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) and other agencies.

Companies must register in the platform. You will find the Self-evaluation on the Protocol for Health Safety questionnaire on this page. “These are non-bureaucratic procedures, that is, they are not cumbersome, they do not take a long time to complete and they are based on trust”, informed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on this Monday’s press conference.

Once organizations have conducted their self-evaluation, they will sign a Letter of Commitment, which they will also find in the government’s platform. In the case of companies with several plants, each work center must be registered individually.

Once this step has been completed, the IMSS will inform the companies, within 72 hours, at the most, whether they are free to reopen or not, or whether they need to provide further information. This decision will be sent via email.

The protocol must include a strategy for the resumption of activities. The guiding principles that should govern this decision are: giving priority to health and life, solidarity and non-discrimination, moral economy and productive efficiency and shared responsibility.

They must specify how they will maintain a healthy distance between the workers, the measures that they will implement to control the entry into and the exit from the facilities, what they will do in the event of an outbreak in the company and how they will protect the vulnerable population living in mid and high alert regions.

Questions persist: lawyers

In spite of this, labor lawyers believe that there is a high degree of confusion in regard to the actions to be implemented, as there are no details on whether the measures also consider companies that are classified as essential activities and which have not interrupted their productive operations.

“It is a lot of information and companies have many questions as to how to comply, particularly in regard to form, as well as in regard to the manner in which they must submit the information; whether this applies to you or not if you are a small or medium sized company”, pointed out Germán de la Garza de Vecchi, partner at the Mowat-Deloitte Firm.

For his part, Óscar de la Vega, partner at D&M, said that the suggestion for companies “is that, at this time, all companies start preparing their safety protocols and establishing their plans for training, facility adaptation and entrance filters for their workers in order to be ready at the time in which, in accordance to the risk traffic light system, they are allowed to resume their operations”. (With information provided by María del Pilar Martínez)

Note published in El Economista, Empresas [Companies] section by Blanca Juárez