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Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces

Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces

Megan Veldman

With the initial impact of COVID-19 on our economy and workplaces, the entire country was in lockdown and unsure of the future. As the economy slowly started opening up, so came uncertainty on what measures needed to be put in place to ensure staff, consultants or visitors are in a safe environment. With the ever-present threat of a resurgence of cases, companies need to implement and MAINTAIN the prevention and spread of COVID-19.
 
We unpack the recent issue of Government Notice No. R. 1031 released on the 1st October 2020 - Consolidated Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measure in Certain Workplaces - and look at measures to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces in South Africa.
 
The directions put in place by the Act apply for the duration of the national state of disaster, unless otherwise indicated.
 
An employer employing less than 10 employees needs only to conduct a risk assessment as listed below:
 
  • Phase in the return of the employees taking into account those that are able to work remotely and those over the age of 60 or who have a life-threatening health condition. Working hours should also be taken into account.
  • Ensure that employees are at least one and half metres apart or if this is not practical to place physical barriers between them.
  • Any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 is not permitted into the workplace.
  • Should an employee test positive, the relevant provincial inspectorate should be contacted for instruction – this also relates to companies employing any number of employees.
  • An employee must wear a cloth mask covering their nose and mouth while at work.
  • There must be hand sanitizers, soap and clean water to wash and disinfect hands and disinfectant to wipe work stations or communal areas.
  • Do a complete risk assessment of the workplace ensuring that any public access is monitored and protocols adhered to.
Each workplace will have specific risks which must be assessed and measures put in place to ensure that employees and clients are protected. This risk assessment must tie in with the OHSA Regulations before the workplace can re-open. After various consultations with trade union representatives, health and safety committees/reps or inspectors the plan must include the following:
 
  • All employers employing more than 50 employees must have a risk assessment and written policy relating to COVID-19 and must comply with Section 7(1) of the OHSA.
  • Date and hours the workplace will be open.
  • The list of employees permitted to return and those required to work from home (ability and risk profiles).
  • Create a plan and timetable for the phased-in return of the workforce, minimising the number of the workforce where possible.
  • Ensure that protective measures have been put in place such as masks; screening of employees, contractors and visitors; sanitizing staff, visitors and workplace continuously; distancing and relevant PPE for the job.
Should an employee refuse to return to the workplace due to circumstances, a consultation process must be put in place to address the issues of the worker. The full breakdown can be found in the Government Gazette in Section 14.
 
In addition, there is a worker obligation and every employee is obliged to comply with the measures introduced by the employer under the COVID-19 or disaster management protocols.
 
In conclusion, we cannot stress the importance of sanitizing continuously, wearing of masks, social distancing, not allowing sick employees into the workplace and consultation and information. The Gazette is invaluable as it gives clear breakdowns for various protocols.
 
The full Gazette is available for download at www.gpwonline.co.za - http://www.gpwonline.co.za/Search/Pages/Results.aspx?k=43751