National Disaster Workplace Safety Overview
COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Workplace Directives
Obligations placed on employers to protect their employees and members of the public who enter the workplace.
What does OHSA require of employers?
Employers are required to provide and maintain “as far as is reasonably practicable a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of workers”.
1. must take steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate the hazard or potential for hazard in their workplace for the benefit of their employees and “all persons who may be directly affected by their activities”.
1.1. “All persons” would include customer, clients, or contractors and their workers who enter your workplace or come into contact with your employees.
1.2. Not every workplace will be expected to have the same safety measures. Each workplace must be looked at in relation to its specific circumstances.
2. conduct and update a risk assessment on a regular basis.
What is a risk assessment?
• A determination of the risk of exposure to the transmission of COVID-19.
• The basic measures to eliminate or minimize the risk of infection are social distancing, frequently washing hands, and covering of your mouth and nose but these measures may continue to be refined especially when it comes to specific sectors or industries.
• Workers in different sectors or industries are categorized into varying levels of exposure to risk.
o Health care workers are at “very high exposure risk”;
o Workers whose job does not require them to be in contact with people “known to be or suspected to be infected with COVID-19” are considered medium or lower exposure risk.
• The risk assessment shall include administrative, social distancing, and health and safety measures.
How long do these measures have to be in place?
This Directive remains in force for as long as the declaration of a national disaster remains in force.
Do you have less than 10 employees?
8 compulsory requirements for employers with less than 10 employees:
1. Ensure that employees are at least one and half metres apart. If this is not practicable then physical barriers must be placed between employees to prevent the transmission of COVID-19;
2. Ensure that employees that present the following symptoms are not permitted to work;
2.3. Sore throat
2.4. Redness of eyes
2.5. Difficulty breathing;
3. In the event that an employee presents symptoms, contact the COVID-19 hotline, 0800 02 9999, for instructions on how to proceed and direct the employee to act on those instructions;
4. Provide cloth masks or require an employee to wear some form of cloth covering over their mouth and nose while at work;
5. Provide each employee with access to hand sanitizer, soap, and clean water for washing their hands;
6. Ensure that each employee washes their hands with sanitizer and soap;
7. Take any further measures as indicated by a risk assessment.
An employer of more 10 or more employees:
An employer must:
1. conduct a risk assessment to give effect to the minimum measures required by the Directive taking into account specific circumstances of the workplace;
2. notify all workers of the manner in which it intends to implement the measures;
3. notify all workers that if they are sick or show symptoms associated with COVID-19 that they must not come to work and take paid sick leave;
4. appoint a manager to address employee or workplace concerns and to consult that representative on measures that need to be taken;
5. ensure that the measures as set out in its risk assessment are strictly complied with;
6. as far as is practicable, minimize the number of workers at the workplace at any given time. For example, this measure may result in staggered working hours or shift systems or remote working arrangements;
7. implement measures to minimize contact between workers as well as workers and members of the public;
8. provide workers with information that raises awareness of the dangers of COVID-19;
9. if a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, inform the Department of Health and the Department of Employment and Labour.
10. if a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, investigate the cause of the transmission of COVID-19 including any control failure as well as review its risk assessment.
Social distancing measures:
An employer must:
1. arrange the workplace to ensure minimal contact between workers.
2. where practicable, ensure that workers have a minimum of one and a half metres between each other while working. Please note that certain workplaces may require a longer minimum distance.
3. if the minimum distance of one and half metres is not practicable, arrange physical barriers to be placed between workstations or erected on workstations to form solid physical barriers between workers;
4. if necessary, supply employees with appropriate PPE free of charge based on the risk assessment of the working place;
5. ensure that social distancing measures are observed in the workplace including common areas outside the immediate workplace.
Health and safety measures:
An employer must:
1. screen any worker, at the time they report for work, to ascertain whether they have any of the observable symptoms (i.e. fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath).
2. require any worker to report whether they suffer from any of the following additional symptoms: body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, or tiredness;
3. provide a hand sanitizer that has at least 70% alcohol content;
4. ensure that there are sufficient quantities of hand sanitizers;
5. ensure that every employee who works away from the workplace, other than at home, must be provided with an adequate supply of hand sanitizer;
6. if an employee interacts with the public, the employer must provide the employee with sufficient supplies of hand sanitizer for the employee and the person whom the employee is interacting with.
7. ensure that all work surfaces and equipment are disinfected before work begins, regularly during the working period, and after work ends;
8. ensure that all areas including toilets, common areas, door handles, and shared electronic equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
9. provide each of its employees, free of charge, with a minimum of two cloth masks, which comply with national requirements.
10. make appropriate arrangements for the washing, drying, and ironing of cloth masks.
If an employee presents symptoms of COVID-19 or advises the employer of these symptoms, the employer must:
1. not permit the worker to enter the workplace or report for work; or
2. if the worker is already at work, immediately-
2.1. isolate the worker, provide the worker with a FFP1 surgical mask, and arrange for the worker to be transported in a manner that does not place other workers or members of the public at risk either to be self-isolated, for medical examination, or testing; and
2.2. assess the risk of transmission, disinfect the area and the worker’s workstation, refer those workers who may now be at risk for screening and any other appropriate measures.
3. ensure that the worker is tested or referred to an identified testing site;
4. place the employee on sick leave;
5. if there is evidence the worker contracted COVID-19 as a result of occupational exposure, lodge a claim for compensation in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.
6. If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 and isolated, an employer may only allow a worker to return to work under specified circumstances.
Employers are required to check regularly on the websites of the National Department of Health, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, and the National Institute for Occupational Health on whether additional PPE is required or recommended in any guidelines given the nature of the workplace or the nature of a worker’s duties. De Abreu and Cohen Inc will continue to publish updated information for employees and employers. If ever you are in need of assistance, please feel free to contact Marie-Lou Gillespie at MLGillespie@dacct.co.za or Christian Tabor-Raeside at CTabor@dacct.co.za