Trade union Solidarity has published a 10-point guide which aims to allow for the return to work under South Africa’s extended level 3 lockdown.
The premise of the plan is that employers should be fearless against the virus, but also fearless towards the saving of the economy and jobs, it said.
“Under the current regulations, with a few exceptions, employees may return to work after the holidays. Our ten-point plan is within the statutory framework of the Covid-19 regulations.
“This plan does not make a choice between work and health, but rather a choice towards healthy work,” said Paul Mardon, deputy general Secretary of Solidarity.
Mardon said that the risks in terms of Covid-19 look completely different from December when several employees went on holiday.
The return of employees who were on holiday and at their homes, brings new risks to the workplace and the new wave of infection has also not yet reached its peak, he said.
The legal responsibility of all employees to ensure a healthy and safe workplace is still in place and is the foundation for providing a healthy workplace.
The directives, as issued by the Department of Employment and Labour in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and COIDA, are still valid and must be applied, Solidarity said.
It is particularly important that employers analyse the threats and risks of health and safety at the workplace, including the risk of Covid-19, and that employers determine which measures are needed to eliminate these threats and risks, implement these measures, and monitor and enforce employees to comply with these measures.
The threats and risks may even differ at similar places, such as the ablutions for different genders. The risk analysis must be done continuously since changing circumstances may change the risks and even create new risks.
Businesses can continue operating
In terms of the adjusted Level 3 lockdown regulations, all workplaces may continue with their activities unless specifically excluded from the regulations, subject to the conditions and principles mentioned below.
The businesses which cannot open include nightclubs, bars and shebeens.
Work from home
The basic rule is: All persons that can work from home, should work from home. To limit their exposure, it is important that those working from home leave the house as little as possible.
If it is necessary for employees to be at the workplace, the following conditions must be met:
- All relevant health protocols, such as the disinfection of workplaces, the washing and disinfection of hands, record keeping of persons entering the workplace, maintaining social distance (at least 1,5 meters), and assuring good ventilation must be strictly complied with;
- Employers must take measures to ensure the physical distance between employees among themselves and with other persons;
- It is important that those at the office visit as little public places as possible during office hours in order to limit their exposure;
- Returning to the office should take place in phases in order to provide enough time to put measures in place to get the workplace ready for Covid-19;
- Returning to the office must be done in such a way that the risk of infection is avoided and reduced;
- Compliance officers must be appointed at each workplace.
Businesses must also comply with all sector-specific health protocols as may be determined, which may include job rotation, distributed work hours, shift systems and teleworking, and special provision for vulnerable persons.
The movement of persons between 21h00 and 05h00 is prohibited, unless the person is in possession of a permit in the prescribed format or in the case of a safety or medical emergency.
Employers must ensure that employees that needs to move from their place of residence, outside these hours, for urgent essential work requirements are in possession of a duly completed permit to authorise such movement.
The wearing of masks is compulsory for all persons in a public place, including the workplace. Employers may not allow any employee to enter the workplace or to do any work without a mask.
Employers should therefore provide for taking relevant steps to ensure the mandatory wearing of masks in the appropriate manner.
Safety starts at home
Employees need to be made aware that safety starts at home. They must also strictly adhere to the safety and health protocols outside the work environment in order to limit their own exposure and that of their families, and to reduce the risk of infection of their colleagues in the event that they are asymptomatic.