Going back to work? These are the new rules for staff and companies

Companies will have to provide employees with two cloth face masks to wear in the office and while commuting to and from work. Stock photo.
Image: Pixabay/Alexander Droeger

Free cloth face masks, spaces or physical barriers between workers, loo queues, paper towels, sore throat screening and no discrimination against those who test positive for Covid-19.

These are among a raft of measures that companies permitted to operate under lockdown regulations will have to take to mitigate or eliminate the transmission of the virus in the workplace.

The regulations, signed by labour minister Thulas Nxesi, were published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday. They will change the way staff interact in the office and with customers.

The dropping of lockdown regulations to level 4 will enable an estimated 1.5-million people to return to work.

Companies employing more than 500 people will have to undertake a risk assessment and produce a written policy to protect the health and safety of staff.

They will also have to, among other things:

  • Ensure that sick employees do not work and take sick paid leave.
  • Appoint a manager to “address employee or workplace representative concerns” around health and safety.
  • Minimise numbers through rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems or remote working arrangements.
  • Ensure staff work at least 1.5m apart. If not practical, physical barriers must be placed between work stations.
  • Enforce social distancing “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.” This can be done by dividing staff into groups or staggering breaks to avoid a concentration of workers in common areas.
  • Screen those reporting for work to ascertain if they have a fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
  • Ensure staff with body aches, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness immediately relay this information.
  • Give those who display the above symptoms a surgical mask, isolate them and arrange transport for them to self-isolate or seek medical examination. Their work station will need to be disinfected and co-workers screened.
  • Ensure that staff who test positive for Covid-19 are not discriminated against. If  there is evidence they contracted the virus at work a claim must be lodged for compensation in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.
  • Ensure there is enough hand sanitiser and that work surfaces and equipment are disinfected regularly, with common areas cleaned.
  • Ban the use of fabric towels where hands are washed. Only paper towels are allowed.
  • Provide, free, a minimum of two cloth face masks for employees: “An employer must make appropriate arrangements for the washing, drying and ironing of cloth masks.”

Small businesses with less than 10 employees must:

  • ensure staff are at least 1.5m apart in the workplace or separated by physical barriers;
  • ensure those displaying Covid-19 symptoms do not work; and
  • provide cloth masks or ensure staff cover their nose and mouth, have hand sanitiser and wash hands regularly, and that their workstations are disinfected.




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