While some retailers could already start trading on Friday, the bulk that are allowed to open under Level 4 Risk-assessment will open tomorrow. But, before businesses may reopen to start work, they must first put Health and Safety measures in place as stipulated in a new directive issued by the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi.

“A risk assessment must be undertaken to adapt the provisions of the Direction to the specific requirements of individual workplaces,” he said at a media briefing on May 3rd . According to this, every employer must:

  • Appoint a manager (from within the existing structure) to address the concerns of employees and workplace representatives and inform workers about the directive.
  • Inform employees that if they have COVID-19 symptoms they must not be at work and grant paid sick leave or apply for COVID-19 TERS benefits.
    • They must report any diagnosis of COVID-9 at work to the Department of Health and the Department of Employment and Labour, investigate the cause, and take appropriate measures. It is a contravention not to do so as an employer.
    • They must support any contact tracing measures initiated by the Department of Health.
  • Take measures to minimise the contact between workers and between workers and the public to prevent transmission.
  • Minimise the number of workers in the workplace at any time through shift or working arrangements to achieve social distancing.
  • Provide employees with information concerning COVID-9 and how to prevent its transmission.

Preparing the workplace

  • Workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of 1½ meters between workers. If this is not practicable, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied free PPE.
  • Social distancing must be implemented in all common areas in and around the workplace to prevent crowding (including working spaces, canteens, meeting rooms etc.).
  • Every workplace must be well ventilated to reduce the viral load.

 Safeguarding workers

  • Employers must screen workers for symptoms of COVID-19 at the time that they report for work, namely: fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing); body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness.
  • Workers should immediately inform the employer if they experience any symptoms while at work. Workers with symptoms must be placed in isolation and arrangements made for their safe transport for a medical examination or for self-isolation.
  • Shops (and other workplaces to which the public have access) must screen all persons entering the workplace for symptoms.
  • Employees who recover from COVID-19 may return to work after a medical evaluation and subject to ongoing monitoring, in line with instructions of the Department of Health.

PPE and Sanitisers

Employers must:

  • Provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70% alcohol content.
  • Ensure that work surfaces, equipment and common areas such as toilets, door handles and shared equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Provide facilities for hand washing with soap and clean water and sufficient paper towels.
  • Require members of the public entering a workplace to wear masks.
  • Provide each employee, free of charge, with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting. There must be suitable arrangements for washing and drying masks.

Ultimately, the employer remains responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of PPEs.

Where a risk assessment indicates, workers must be provided with alternative appropriate PPE (eg N95 or N97 masks) to provide a greater level of protection.

Labour Inspectors are empowered to monitor and enforce compliance with the directive and an employer who does not comply may be ordered to close their business. There are 170 inspectors in the field who have carried out 2 226 workplace inspections. They report that compliance has increased from 50% to 60%.