2020-04-30

NEW employer responsibilities for COVID-19 at the workplace: 29 April 2020

Yesterday the Department of Employment and Labour issued  directive for COVID-19 health and safety measures, which will apply for the entire State of Disaster.

(Business with less than 10 employees: refer to the end of this article)

Workers and employees                                                   
The directive refers to “workers”, rather than “employees”: employers are responsible for their own employees, as well as any person working on their premises, hen implementing this Directive.

Cloth masks
- Compulsory: Everybody wears cloth masks.
- 2 free masks: Each worker (employees and workers) receive at least 2 cloth masks for free to use at work and commuting. More may be required after the risk assessment and nature of the job, particularly when there is a risk of the mask becoming soiled or wet. These are in addition to the usual requirements of PPE.
- Training: All workers must be informed, trained and instructed as to the correct use of cloth masks.
- Washing masks:  The employer must make arrangements to wash, dry and iron the cloth masks.

Sanitizers
- 70% alcohol content.
- Available sanitisers: Free, and sufficient quantities of sanitisers for workers and people who access the workplace.
- Working away: If employees work away from the workplace, but not at home, they must be provided with free sanitiser.
- Working with the public:  There must be enough sanitiser for the worker and member of the public.

Disinfecting
- Work surfaces: All work surfaces and equipment are disinfected before work begins, during and after work.
- Public surfaces: Surfaces that workers and members of the public come into contact must be routinely cleaned and disinfected.
- General access: Toilets, common areas, door handles, shared electronic equipment must be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- Biometric systems: Disable biometric systems, or make them COVID-19-proof.

Washing hands
- Facilities: There must be adequate facilities to wash hands with soap and clean water.
- Drying hands: Only paper towels.  No fabric towelling.
- Regular washing: Workers must wash their hands and sanitize their hands regularly at work.
- Public:  Workers interacting with the public must sanitize their hands between each interaction with public.

Social distancing
- Minimal contact: must arrange the workplace for minimum contact, as far as practicable.
- 1.5m: must arrange at least 1.5m distance at work, or if it is not practical:
       - arrange physical barriers between/on workstations work; or
       - supply appropriate PPE free, based on the company’s risk assessment.
 -  Minimal employees working: Reduce the number of workers present in the workplace at any time.
- Supervised distancing: Employer must supervise social distancing in the workplace, and common areas through queue control (canteens, bathrooms, smoking areas), which may include:
       - dividing the workforce into groups
       - staggering break-times, etc

Workplaces with public access.
Depending on what is reasonably practicable, every employer must-
-    1.5m: Ensure 1.5m between workers and the public, as well as between members of the public, or
-    Barriers: put in place physical barriers or
-    Face shields: provide workers with face shields or visors.
-    Symptom screening for public: if appropriate, including technological screening (Thermometers, etc)
-    Notices: If appropriate, display notices advising the public of the precautions they must observe while in the workplace
-    Masks: All members of the public and suppliers must wear masks.

Symptom screening:
Every employer must take measures to-
- Screen everybody: screen any worker, when they report for work, for observable symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing).
- Report symptoms: require every worker to report if they have additional symptoms (body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness)
- Immediate reporting: require workers to immediately inform the employer if they experience any of these symptoms while at work.

What to do when symptoms appear:
- Outside the workplace: An employee who either has symptoms or has advised the employer that they have symptoms may not enter the workplace.
- At work: If a worker presents symptoms or advises the employer of the symptoms while at work, the employer must immediately-
-    isolate the worker.
-    provide the worker with a FFP1 surgical mask.
-    arrange for the worker to be transported without placing other workers or members of the public at risk.
-    assess the risk of transmission.
-    disinfect the area and the worker’s workstation.
-    refer those workers who may be at risk for screening.
-    take any other appropriate measure to prevent possible transmission.
-    ensure that the worker is tested or referred to an identified testing site.
-    place its employee on paid sick leave with a valid doctor’s certificate using the sick leave available to the employee.
-    ensure that the employee is not discriminated against because they have tested positive.
-    if there is evidence that the worker contracted COVID-19 as a result of occupational exposure, a Workmen’s Compensations Claim can be lodged.
-    Inform the Department of Health (COVID-19 hotline: 0800 02 9999) and the Department of Employment and Labour.
-    Investigate the cause, including any control failure, and review its risk assessment to ensure that the necessary controls and PPE requirements are in place; and
-    give administrative support to the Department of Health with contact-tracing.
-    Return to work, only after:
- A medical evaluation confirming that the worker has been tested negative for COVID-19.
- the employer ensures that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker; and
- the employer closely monitors the worker for symptoms on return to work.

Ventilation
-    The workplace must be well ventilated by natural or mechanical means
-    Local extraction: Where reasonably practicable, have an effective local extraction ventilation system with high-efficiency particulate air HEPA filters, which is regularly cleaned and maintained, and its vents do not feedback in through open windows.
-    Filters: Filters must be cleaned and replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions by a competent person.

Other PPE
Every employer must regularly check if additional PPE is required or additional guidelines with the websites of :
       - National Department of Health:  http://www.health.gov.za/
       - National Institute of Communicable Diseases:  https://www.nicd.ac.za/
       - National Institute for Occupational Health: http://www.nioh.ac.za/

Risk assessment:
- Conducted to, at least, carry out the minimum measures of this directive, taking workplace circumstances into account.
- With more than 500 employees: submit to the Health and Safety Committee, as well as the Department of Employment and Labour (http://www.labour.gov.za/About-Us/Ministry/Pages/IES0320-7398.aspx)
       - A record of its risk assessment and
       - Its written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of its employees from COVID-19.
- Notify all employees:
      - Of the contents of this Directive.
      - The manner in which the Directive will be implemented.
      - If an employee is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms they must take sick leave.

Manager appointed to:
- Address employee or workplace representative concerns.
- Keep employees and workplace representatives informed.
- Consult with the health and safety committee, if there is one, on the nature of the hazard in that workplace and the measures that need to be taken.
- Monitor and supervise the requirements of this directive and the company risk assessment plan.
- Minimize the number of workers at the workplace through rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems, remote working arrangements or similar measures in order to achieve social distancing.
- Minimize contact between workers, other workers and members of the public.
- Provide workers with information that raises awareness in any form or manner (leaflets, notices in conspicuous places) informing workers of the:
       - dangers of the virus,
       - manner of its transmission,
       - measures to prevent transmission,
       - where to go for screening or testing.

Small businesses (Less than 10 employees)
-    1.5m: arrange the workplace to ensure distancing of 1.5m, or if not practicable, place physical barriers between them.
-    Symptoms: Employees who present symptoms may not be permitted to work.
-    Symptoms at work: Immediately contact the COVID-19 hotline: 0800 02 9999 for instruction and direct the employee to act in accordance with those instructions.
-    Masks: provide cloth masks or require employees to wear cloth covering over their mouth and nose while at work.
- Sanitisers: Provide employees with hand sanitizers, soap and clean water to wash their hands and disinfectants to sanitize their workstations.  Ensure employees wash their hands with soap and sanitizes their hands.
- Disinfect: ensure that their workstations are disinfected regularly.
- Risk assessment: take any other measures indicated by a risk assessment.

Worker obligations
Every worker is obliged to comply with measures introduced by their employer as required by this Directive.

Monitoring and enforcing the Directive
OHSA inspectors will have this Directive included in their inspection schedule with the same powers and authority for penalties.

Occupational Health and Safety Act requires the employer to:
- Provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of workers
- Take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or mitigate the hazard or potential hazard.
- Customers, clients, contractors and workers must not be are not exposed to hazards to their health or safety. The identifiable hazard is the transmission of COVID-19.

Mark - 04:28 @ common, Industrial Relations, Human Resources, B-BBEE | Add a comment

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