COVID-19: GUIDELINES FROM THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR
By Nadine Mather,Talita Laubscher Thursday, March 19, 2020
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:
- installing high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation rates;
- encouraging sick workers to stay at home;
- minimizing contact among workers, clients and customers;
- replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications, such as telephone or video conferences;
- minimizing the number of people on site at any given time by, for example, staggering start and end times;
- discontinuing non-essential travel;
- regularly checking travel advice from the Department of Health;
- establishing a task team to be able to respond to employees’ concerns;
- providing employees with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviours, in a language they understand;
- training workers who need to use protective clothing and equipment on how to put it on, wear it and remove it correctly;
- providing hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs, disinfectants, disposable towels and non-touch refuse bins for workers to clean their hands and work surfaces;
- encouraging regular hand-washing, and displaying handwashing signs in restrooms; and
- 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.