COVID-19: ENSURING A SAFE RETURN TO WORK, SOUTH AFRICA
As the lockdown in South Africa is eased and businesses start to re-open, ensuring the health and safety of employees and members of the public will be of paramount importance. The Minister of Employment and Labour signed a Direction in terms of section 10(8) of the National Disaster Regulations that provides for measures employers are required to adhere to at this time. Together with the Direction, the Department published a Summary as well as a COVID-19 Walk Through Risk Assessment to guide additional workforce preserving strategies.
The hazards posed by COVID-19 are clearly identifiable, and employers must take steps to eliminate or minimize the risk of infection and the spread of the disease.
The Direction recognizes that there are sector-specific measures that will need to be taken into account, and provision is accordingly made for sector guidelines to supplement the Direction.
The Direction does not apply to workplaces (a) excluded from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA); (b) in which medical or healthcare services are performed (but excluding retail pharmacies); and (c) in respect of which a direction is issued by another Minister in terms of the National Disaster Regulations. It does apply to employers and workers in respect of the manufacturing, supply or provision of essential goods or essential services as defined in the Regulations, and any workplace permitted to commence or continue operations before or after the expiry of the Regulations. The Direction remains in force for as long as the declaration of the national disaster remains in force.
For purposes of the Direction, ‘worker’ refers to the employees of the employer and any other person who works at the workplace. In terms of the Direction, every worker is obliged to comply with the measures introduced by the employer as required by the Direction.
Click here for a document outlining the measures that employers with more than 10 employees must implement.
Employers with less than 10 employees must:
- arrange the workplace to ensure that employees are at least 1.5 meters apart, or if not practicable, place physical barriers between them to prevent the possible transmission of the virus;
- ensure that employees with COVID-19 like symptoms are not permitted to work;
- immediately contact the hotline: 0800 02 9999 for instruction and direct the employee with COVID-19 symptoms to act in accordance with these instructions;
- provide cloth masks, or require employees to wear some form of cloth covering their mouths and noses while at work;
- provide employees with hand sanitizers, soap and clean water to wash their hands, and disinfectants to sanitize their workstations;
- ensure that employees wash their hands with soap and water and sanitize their hands, while at work; and
- ensure that workstations are regularly disinfected.
A contravention of the Direction places the employer at risk of enforcement proceedings under OHSA, and the offences and penalties set out in section 38 of OHSA will apply. Labour inspectors are tasked with the monitoring of compliance with this Direction and may attend at workplaces for this purpose.