IOL 03 May 2020
Johannesburg – Businesses must have a clear plan on how they will protect the health and safety of everyone in their workplace, Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said on Sunday.
Nxesi was on Sunday briefing the country on back to work readiness ahead of the first working day on Level 4 lockdown since President Cyril Ramaphosa eased South Africa coronavirus lockdown regulations.
“In returning to work it cannot be business as usual,” Nxesi said adding that he had issued a direction that sets out the measures that employers must take to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in workplaces “and these, we must emphasize are minimum measures. Employers are able to go beyond that”.
“Businesses that are reopening must put these measures in place before restarting the work.” Sectors that can reopen are contained in Annexure E.
Nxesi said: “Employers must take measures to protect the health and safety of everyone in their workplace. This includes employees of contractors, self employed person and volunteers.
“The process starts with a risk assessment in the workplace and a clear plan to implement the measures contained in the direction.”
Every employer must do the following:
* Notify every employer of the contents of the direction and how it will be implemented.
* They must inform employees that if they have Covid-19 symptoms, they must not be at work and grant paid sick leave or apply for Covid-19 Ters benefits.
* The employer must appoint a manager from within the existing structure to address the concerns of the employees and workplace representatives.
* They must take measures to minimise contact between the workers and between the workers and the public to prevent the transmission.
* They must minimise the number of the workers in the workplace at any time through shifts or working arrangements to achieve social distancing.
* The employer must provide employees with information concerning Covid-19 and how to prevent its transmission.
* They must report any diagnosis of Covid-19 at work to the Department of Health and to the Department of Employment and Labour, investigate the cause and take appropriate measures. It is a contravention not to do so as an employer.
* They must support any contact tracing measures initiated by the Department of Health.
* Workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of 1.5 metres between workers. If this is not practical, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied free of charge with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.
* Social distancing must be implemented in all common areas of the workplace to prevent crowding, including in working spaces, canteens, meeting rooms etc.
* In relation to screening, employers must screen workers for symptoms of Covid-19 at the time that they report for work, namely cough, fever sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, body aches, loss of sense of smell, or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue or weakness.
* Workers should immediately inform employers if they experience any symptoms at work. Not doing so is a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
* Workers with symptoms must be placed in isolation and arrangements made for their safe transport for a medical examination or for self-isolation.
* Shops (and other workplaces to which the public have access) must screen all persons entering the workplace for symptoms.
* Employees who recover from Covid-19 may return to work after a medical evaluation and subject to ongoing monitoring, in line with instructions of the Department of Health.
* Provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70% alcohol content;
* Ensure that work surfaces, equipment and common areas such as toilets, door handles and shared equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected; and
* Provide adequate facilities for hand washing with soap and clean water and sufficient paper towels.
* Workers must wear masks at work. Employers must also require members of the public entering a workplace to wear masks.
* Employers must provide each employee, free of charge, with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting.
* There must be suitable arrangements for washing and drying masks. Ultimately, the employer remains responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of PPEs.
* Where a risk assessment indicates, workers must be provided with alternative appropriate PPE (eg N95 or N97 masks) to provide a greater level of protection. Every workplace must be well ventilated to reduce the viral load.
* Employers must keep up to date with recommendations from agencies such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the National Institute for Occupational Health on the appropriate steps to take to prevent transmission in their workplaces and for the provision of PPE.
South Africa has been under a five-week national lockdown, which was eased on Thursday, with the introduction of a five-level phased approach to easing the lockdown.
The country moved to Level 4 lockdown as of Friday, May 1. The lockdown was imposed by the government to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Level 4 lockdown will see many more returning to work, including agricultural workers, and those who work in the retail clothing industry.
Food agriculture and services including livestock farming will be allowed to operate and the export of agricultural good will also be allowed.
Manufacturers of retail products permitted to be sold under level 4 will also be allowed to open under strict conditions.