NEW COVID-19 WORKPLACE REQUIREMENTS: (Deadline: 21 October 2020)

Additional COVID-19 obligations on employers have been issued by the Employment and Labour Minister.
These all become effective on 21 October 2020

Refusal to work due to exposure to Covid-19
An employee can refuse to work if , with reasonable justification, he or she, or a health and safety representative believes there is an imminent and serious risk of exposure to Covid-19.

The employer must then resolve any issue arising from the refusal, after consultation with the Covid-19 Compliance Officer and any health and safety committee.

If the matter cannot be resolved, the employer must notify an inspector within 24 hours, and advise the employee and all other parties involved in resolving the issue that an inspector has been notified. If the employer does not make the notification, the employee may do so.

An inspector may issue a prohibition notice if they beleive that any act threatens or is likely to threaten the health and safety of any person.

No person may:
- benefit from, or promise any benefit to any person for, not exercising the refusal to work.
- threaten to take any action against a person because that person has refused, or intends to refuse, to work.

No employee may be dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced or harassed for a Covid-19 refusal to perform any work.

A dispute may be declared to the CCMA as an unfair labour practise.

Reporting positive cases
COVID-19 positive cases must be reported to:
- National Institute for Occupational Health via OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za or http://ohss.nioh.ac.za/.
- Compensation Commissioner whenever a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the workplace.
 Compensation Fund: CompEasy (www.labour.gov.za),
 Rand Mutual Assurance: CompCare (www.randmutual.co.za),
 Federated Employers Mutual: IMS (http://roe.fem.co.za)

New isolation and quarantine periods
Self-isolation and self-quarantine is reduced from 14 days to 10 days.
The self-isolation period applies to workers who have tested positive, while self-quarantine is for high-risk exposure to a positive case.

Measures for workplace COVID-19 infection
If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employer must
- inform the NIOH (OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za or http://ohss.nioh.ac.za/)
- inform the Compensation Commissioner   
- investigate the mode of exposure, including any control failure, and review its risk assessment to ensure that the necessary controls and PPE requirements are in place;
- assess the temporarily closure of the affected work area for decontamination
- give administrative support to any contact-tracing measures implemented by the Department of Health.

Diagnosis and isolation
If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID -19 and isolated, the employee may return to work:
- without viral testing if the worker has isolated for the mandatory 10 days from:
 the onset of symptoms in mild cases of infection without hospitalisation or
 the date of achieving clinical stability, or earlier if the worker has gone a medical evaluation confirming fitness to work, in moderate to severe cases of infection, requiring supplemental oxygen or hospitalisation.
- The employer must ensure that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker;
- The employer closely monitor the worker for symptoms on return to work; and
- If the worker, on return to work, wears a surgical mask for 21 days from the date of diagnosis.

If a worker has been in contact in the workplace with another worker who has been diagnosed with COVID -19, the employer must assess whether there is a low or high risk of exposure:

- Low risk exposure, the employer:
 may permit the worker to continue working using a cloth mask and
 must monitor the worker’s symptoms for 10 days from the first contact.

-        High risk exposure-
 Quarantine for 10 days; and
 Worker is placed on sick leave.
 If the worker remains asymptomatic, no further testing is required prior to return to work.

Risk assessment and plans for protective measures
Every employer must conduct a risk assessment of the workplace, and then develop a plan outlining protective measures.

The assessment and plan must be consulted with any majority trade union  and Health and Safety Committee, or, in the committee’s absence, a health and safety representative or employee representative, which may be a shop steward.

The Plan must be available for inspection by an inspector.

The Plan includes the date of workplace opening, the hours it will operate, list of employees permitted to return to work and those who will work from home; the plan and timetable for the phased-in return to the workplace; identification of vulnerable employees, minimising the number of employees at the workplace, measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, daily screening, and details of the compliance officer.

A new addition to the Plan is a procedure to resolve any issue that may arise from an employee refusing to work if the employee has reason to believe that the workplace is not COVID-19 safe.

New reporting requirements for employers with more than more than 50 employees
This was a requirement, previously, for employers employing more than 500 employees.

These employers must submit a record of their risk assessment, together with a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of employees from COVID-19:
- their health and safety committee; and
- Department of Employment and Labour.

The submission to the department must be made by email to the address of the appropriate Provincial Chief Inspector (http://www.labour.gov.za/About-Us/Ministry/Page/IES0320-7398.aspx) by 21 October 2020. 

Gauteng’s Chief Inspector is:
Adv Michael Msiza (PCI)
Tel: 012 309 5110
Cell: 082 900 8131

Furthermore these employers must submit the following data to the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) electronically (OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za or via the online platform):
- Each employee’s vulnerability status for serious outcomes of a Covid-19 infection (which is a once-off submission)
- Details of the daily symptom screening data;
- Details of employees who test positive for Covid-19;
- Number of employees identified as high-risk contacts (and who have been quarantined) as a result of exposure to a worker who has tested positive for Covid-19; and
- Details on the post-infection outcomes of those testing positive, including the return to work assessment outcome.

Other than the list of vulnerable employees, the remaining data is submitted weekly before every Tuesday, based on the previous calendar week from Sunday to Saturday.

Employees must be told that their personal information will be submitted to the NIOH in accordance with the employer’s legal obligations and that the NIOH will comply with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act.

The steps required to submit data on-line are:
1. Obtain a registration portal link from the NIOH, by emailing OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za.
2. The business registers electronically by supplying the name, industry, address, province, district, total number of employees, split into genders, company contact names and number and email and date of registration.
3. These details will be verified, and the registration confirmed.
4. The system administrator generates a unique ID for the business that the business will use to login to the system to submit data

Employers with 10 or less employees
The only change is that the employer must now contact the relevant provincial inspectorate (and not the general COVID-19 hotline number) to obtain instructions when an employee presents with symptoms at work.

Mark - 10:47 @ common, Industrial Relations, Human Resources, B-BBEE | Add a comment