The Department of Employment and Labour has published a new guideline for dealing with the coronavirus in South African workplaces, outlining the strategies that businesses should follow to minimise their employees’ risk of exposure.
The department said that employers who have not prepared for pandemic events should prepare themselves and their workers as far in advance as possible of potentially worsening outbreak conditions.
It added that a lack of continuity planning can result in a ‘cascade of failures’ as employers attempt to address challenges of the coronavirus with insufficient resources and workers who might not be adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.
“Worker risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) during an outbreak may vary from very high to high, medium, or low (caution) risk,” the Department of Labour said.
“The level of risk depends in part on the industry type, need for contact within two metres (six feet) of people known to be, or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2, or requirement for repeated or extended contact with persons known to be, or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2.”
While the majority of the guideline is dedicated to how businesses can limit exposure, it also outlines the jobs which have the highest risk exposure.
Very high exposure risk
Very high exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of Covid-19 during specific medical, post mortem, or laboratory procedures. Workers in this category include:
- Healthcare workers (e.g. doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, emergency medical technicians) performing aerosol-generating procedures (e.g. intubation, cough induction procedures, bronchoscopies, some dental procedures and exams, or invasive specimen collection) on known or suspected Covid-19 patients;
- Healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected Covid-19 patients (e.g. manipulating cultures from known or suspected Covid-19 patients);
- Morgue workers performing autopsies, which generally involve aerosol-generating procedures, on the bodies of people who are known to have, or suspected of having, Covid-19 at the time of their death;
High exposure risk
High exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of Covid-19. Workers in this category include:
- Healthcare delivery and support staff (e.g. doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who must enter patients rooms) exposed to known or suspected Covid-19 patients. (Note: when such workers perform aerosol-generating procedures, their exposure risk level becomes very high.);
- Medical transport workers (e.g. ambulance personnel and porters) moving known or suspected Covid-19 patients in enclosed vehicles;
- Mortuary workers involved in preparing (e.g. for burial or cremation) the bodies of people who are known to have, or suspected of having Covid-19 at the time of their death.
Medium exposure risk
Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e. within two meters of) people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but who are not known or suspected covid-19 patients.
In areas without ongoing community transmission, workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travellers who may return from international locations with widespread covid-19 transmission.
In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category may have contact with the general public (e.g. in schools, high-population-density work environments, such as labour centres, consulting rooms, point of entry personnel and some high-volume retail settings).
Lower exposure risk (caution)
Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2, nor frequent close contact with (i.e. within two meters of) the general public.
Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other co-workers.
You can read the full guideline below: