Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi has gazetted a new directive outlining the occupational health and safety measures for the reopening of workplaces in South Africa.
While most businesses were allowed to return to work from 1 June under the country’s level 3 lockdown, the directive consolidates previous gazettes and revises rules based on current health and safety information.
“In the period since the issuing of the guidelines, a clearer picture has emerged about Covid -19 and the nature of the hazard and risk in the workplace and the precautions that should be taken to minimise the risk,” Nxesi said in the directive’s preamble.
“The purpose of these directions is to stipulate measures that must be taken by employers in order to protect the health and safety of workers and members of the public who enter their workplaces or are exposed to their working activities.”
Nxesi added that these directives aim to give effect to the country’s level 3 lockdown rules which were published on 29 May.
Some of the key points from the new directive are outlined below.
The directive requires the development of a full plan outlining the protective measures in place for the phased return of its employees before opening.
Among other things, this should include:
- The date that the workplace will open and the hours of opening;
- A list of employees permitted to return to work and those who are required to work from home;
- The plan and timetable for the phased-in return of employees to the workplace;
- Identify vulnerable employees;
- Ways of minimising the number of workers at the workplace at any one time;
- The measures for the daily screening of employees and the screening of clients, contractors and visitors to the workplace;
- The details of the Covid-19 compliance officer.
The directive requires that businesses take a number of administrative measures including:
- It must take special measures to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 for vulnerable employees – including people over 60 and/or with comorbidities;
- It must notify all workers of the contents of this Direction and the manner in which it intends to implement it;
- It must notify its employees that if they are sick or have symptoms associated with Covid-19 that they must not come to work and to take paid sick leave in terms of section 22 of the BCEA;
- It must, as far as practicable, minimise the number of workers at the workplace at any given time through rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems, remote working arrangements or similar measures;
- It must inform the Department of Health if an employee contacts Covid-19 and determine the need to temporarily close the affected work area for decontamination.
Social distancing measures
Every employer must arrange the workplace to ensure minimal contact between workers and as far as practicable ensure that there is a minimum of one and a half metres between workers while they are working, for example, at their workstations.
If it is not practicable to arrange work stations to be spaced at least one and a half metres apart, the employer must arrange physical barriers to be placed between work stations or erected on work stations to form a solid physical barrier between workers while they are working.
When required, the employer should also supply the employee free of charge with appropriate PPE based on a risk assessment of the working place.
Employers should also take measures to ensure social distancing including the workforce into groups or staggering break -times to avoid the concentration of workers in common areas.
The directive states that every employer must screen employees coming into work for Covid-19 symptoms. These include:
- A cough;
- A sore throat;
- Shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing);
- Loss of smell or taste.
The directive also sets out the protocols for employees who presents symptoms as well the protocols for employees who have come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 in the workplace.
Some of the other key considerations in the directive include:
- Guidelines around sanitisers and the provision of masks;
- Rules around the ventilation of offices;
- Specific measures for workplaces which are open to the public;
- Specific measures for workplaces which have fewer than 10 employees;
- Rules around workplace inspections by the Department of Labour.
You can read the full directive below.