The Minister of Employment and Labour had last night issued Regulations in terms of the National Disaster Act regulating health and safety in the workplace.
A distinction has been made for those employers who employ more than 10 employees in the workplace from those who employ less than 10 employees.
The purpose of the regulations is the following :
- Minimize the spread of COVID-19 provided and maintain a reasonably safe work environment; and
- Require employers to ensure that the employees are not exposed to hazards to their health and safety and prevent what may be an infected employee from transmitting COVID-19 to fellow employees in the workplace
These directives apply to all employers who are involved in the manufacture and supply or provision of essential goods or essential services as defined in Schedule 2 of the National Disaster Management Act and will remain in place while the declaration of National Disaster remains in force.
Some of the obligations which employers of more than 10 employees must comply with include the following :
- Undertake a risk assessment to give effect to minimum measures to protect the workplace including appointing a manager to advise the employees in a workplace of the risks as well as the various health measures which have been taken;
- Reduce that contact between employees;
- Employers must arrange the workplace so that there is social distancing of at least 1.5 metres between workers and if that is not possible that barriers or separators be placed between various workspaces ;
- Screening of employees which includes also the reporting of symptoms ;
- Ensuring that if there is an employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19 that the employee is immediately isolated and is not discriminated against or harassed;
- The employer should at its own cost provide sanitizers and disinfectants;
- Employers should provide cloth masks, the number of which should be determined by sectoral guidelines or the working conditions;
- If there is public access then that access should be limited, social distancing should be exercised, face shields should be provided and members of the public should be asked to wear face masks when entering the premises; and
- In addition, employers are to provide adequate ventilation.
In the case of small businesses the guidelines state the following :
- Ensuring that employees are 1.5 meters apart or there are physical barriers between employees;
- Ensure that those employees who have symptoms are not at work;
- Provide cloth masks or provide some form of cloth covering the mouth and nose;
- Provide each employee, at the employer’s costs, hand sanitizers, soap, clean water and disinfectant for their work station;
- Ensure that each employee while at work washes their hands with soap and sanitizes their hands;
- Ensure that workstations are disinfected regularly; and
- Take any other measures to reduce the risks of infection.
Inspectors will be designated to inspect any workplace and to monitor compliance. If any employer fails to comply with these directives then the ordinary Occupational Health and Safety Act offences and penalties will apply. These include criminal prosecution and/or a fine.
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