As an employer what are you required to do to maintain a safe and healthy workplace?

In addition to the Regulations, the DEL has issued directives (the “Directives”) which set out further obligations on employers to maintain a safe and healthy workplace as far as reasonably practicable. 

The Directives require all employers to:
1. Undertake a risk assessment;
2. Notify all workers of the contents of the Directives and the manner in which the employer intends to implement it;
3. Notify its employees that, if they are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID–19, they must not come to work and to take paid sick leave in terms of section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (the “BCEA”);
4. Appoint a manager to address employee or workplace representative concerns and to keep them informed and, in any workplace in which a health and safety committee has been elected, consult with that committee on the nature of the hazard in that workplace and the measures that need to be taken;
5. Ensure that the measures required by this Directive and its risk assessment plan are strictly complied with through monitoring and supervision;
6. As far as practicable, minimize the number of workers at the workplace at any given time through measures such as rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems, remote working arrangements or similar measures in order to achieve social distancing;
7. Take measures to minimize contact between workers as well as between workers and members of the public;
8. Provide workers with information that raises awareness in any form or manner, including where reasonably practicable leaflets and notices placed in conspicuous places in the workplace informing workers of the dangers of the virus, the manner of its transmission, the measures to prevent transmission such as personal hygiene, social distancing, use of masks, cough etiquette and where to go for screening or testing if presenting with the symptoms.

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. Depending on the circumstances of the workplace or the nature of the sector, the minimum distance may need to be longer. Reducing the number of workers present in the workplace at any time may assist in achieving the required social distancing.

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; or if necessary, supply the employee free of charge with appropriate PPE based on a risk assessment of the working place.

Every employer must ensure that social distancing measures are implemented through supervision both in the workplace and in the common areas outside the immediate workplace through queue control or within the workplace such as canteens and lavatories. These measures may include dividing the workforce into groups or staggering break-times to avoid the concentration of workers in common areas.

Screening and employees who display symptoms
If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, an employer must inform the Department of Health and the Department of Employment and Labour; and investigate the cause, including any control failure, and review its risk assessment to ensure that the necessary controls and PPE requirements are in place; and it must give administrative support to any contact-tracing measures implemented by the Department of Health.
Every employer must take measures to:
1. Screen any worker, at the time that they report for work, to ascertain whether they have any of the observable symptoms associated with COVID-19, namely fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing);
2. Require every worker to report whether they suffer from any of the following additional symptoms: body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness; and
3. Require workers to immediately inform the employer if they experience any of these symptoms while at work.
Employers must comply with any guidelines issued by the National Department of Health in consultation with the DEL in respect of symptom screening; and if in addition required to do so, medical surveillance and testing.
If a worker presents with symptoms, or advises the employer of symptoms, the employer must:
1. Not permit the worker to enter the workplace or report for work; or
2. If the worker is already at work immediately isolate the worker, provide the worker with a FFP1 surgical mask and arrange for the worker to be transported in a manner that does not place other workers or members of the public at risk either to be self-isolated or for a medical examination or testing; and
Employees diagnosed with the virus
If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, an employer may only allow a worker to return to work on the following conditions:
1. The worker has undergone a medical evaluation confirming that the worker has been tested negative for COVID-19;
2. The employer ensures that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker; and
3. The employer closely monitors the worker for symptoms on return to work.

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