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COVID-19: Guidelines from the South African Department of Employment and Labour

19 March 2020
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On 17 March 2020, the Department of Employment and Labour issued guidelines to deal with COVID-19 at workplaces.

In summary, the Department reminds employers to:

  • be cognizant of the prescriptions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the applicable regulations in safeguarding their workplaces;
  • review and regularly update risk assessments, taking into account the new hazards posed by exposure to COVID-19;
  • prepare as far in advance as possible for potentially worsening outbreak conditions; and
  • ‘go back to basics’: conduct hazard identification and risk assessment, determine the level of risk exposure, and communicate with employees.

Practical measures that employers may need to implement include:

  1. installing high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation rates;
  2. encouraging sick workers to stay at home;
  3. minimizing contact among workers, clients and customers;
  4. replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications, such as telephone or video conferences;
  5. minimizing the number of people on site at any given time by, for example, staggering start and end times;
  6. discontinuing non-essential travel;
  7. regularly checking travel advice from the Department of Health;
  8. establishing a task team to be able to respond to employees’ concerns;
  9. providing employees with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviours, in a language they understand;
  10. training workers who need to use protective clothing and equipment on how to put it on, wear it and remove it correctly;
  11. providing hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs, disinfectants, disposable towels and non-touch refuse bins for workers to clean their hands and work surfaces;
  12. encouraging regular hand-washing, and displaying handwashing signs in restrooms; and
  13. in appropriate work environments, providing personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, gowns, aprons, coats, overalls, hair and shoe covers and respiratory protection.

A copy of the guidelines is available here.

For the time being, labour centres remain open. Employers are reminded of the coronavirus hotline number: 0800-02-9999.