Is your workplace COVID-19 ready?

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As South Africa prepares to move from level 4 lockdown so more and more companies will be allowed to reopen. As part of this, there are a broad range of legal requirements that organisations now need to comply with. As of the 29th April 2020, the government published a set of regulations specifically related to how companies should be managing COVID-19. These regulations are being enforced by the Department of Employment and Labour and there are various incidents of companies being forced to close until COVID-19 measures have been implemented.


As part of this compliance, companies are required to appoint both a COVID-19 compliance officer and a COVID-19 manager. Whilst this can be the same person, they have different functions. The officer is tasked more specifically with ensuring the workplace is ready to reopen, whilst the manager will be responsible for the day to day activities within the workplace. This will include identifying employees who are over 60 or employees with underlying health conditions. All these employees should be allowed to work from home. The manager will also be responsible for monitoring compliance to both physical distancing rules and hygiene standards within the workplace.


Another aspect that was included in the regulations was that all employers must issue each employee with at least two cloth face masks. These face masks need to be worn in the workplace and when the employee travels to and from work. An important component of the risk mitigation framework is the daily screening of both employees and visitors on entering the workplace. The individuals should confirm through a self-assessment questionnaire that they do not have any of the COVID-19 symptoms and their temperature should be recorded. If an employee is suspected to have COVID-19, then there is a specific protocol that needs to be followed, where the employee is isolated and then sent for testing. The induction and awareness training sessions that must be scheduled with all employees will need to cover these topics in detail and provide guidance to the employee on what procedure should be followed should they or their fellow employees start displaying COVID-19 symptoms in the workplace.


Whilst the regulations provide a good framework for compliance, there are components to your COVID-19 system that are more complicated to implement such as the risk assessment. The risk assessment is a critical component and will ultimately define the control measures that need to be implemented. In this instance, the organisation can review the hierarchy of controls and apply them in managing the risk. Finally, a robust communication plan needs to be implemented so that clear and open communication takes place with employees, particularly given that many will feel anxious going back to work during this period.


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