On the 11th of June 2021 the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thembelani Waltermade Nxesi, published an update to the previous Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces under Government Notice No. R. 499 in Government Gazette No 44700 of 11 June 2021.
The Direction applies to all Employers and Workers in workplaces which are permitted to operate under the current lockdown level, but excluding workplaces excluded from the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) in terms of section 1(3) of OHSA or workplaces in which a Minister has issued a direction dealing with the health and safety of Employees.
Any Employer who employees more than ten (10) employees must undertake a risk assessment in order to give effect to, at least, the measures contained in the directions, including whether or not the Employer intends to make vaccinations mandatory, by no later than the 2nd of July 2021, which:
- the protective measures in place for the phased return of its employees;
- the measures which the Employer intends to implement pertaining to the vaccination of Employees; and
- the date on which the workplace will open;
- the hours during which the workplace will operate;
- a list of employees who will be permitted to return to work;
- a list of employees who will be required to work from home;
- the plan and timetable for the phased-in return of employees to the workplace;
- a list of employees identified as vulnerable employees (Employees with health issues, comorbidities, conditions that may place an employee at a higher risk of complications or death if infected with COVID-19 or employees over the age of 60);
- ways of minimising the number of workers in the workplace at any time;
- the protective measures required to be taken in the workplace;
- the screening measures for employees, clients, contractors and visitors;
- the details of the COVID-19 compliance officer;
- a procedure to resolve any issues which may arise from an employee exercising the right to refuse to work in circumstances which pose an imminent and serious risk of exposure to COVID-19; and
- the process by which these obligations will be complied with.
The Employer is also required to consult on the Risk Assessment and Plan with any representative Trade Union(s) in the workplace and any health and safety committee.
The Employer must require its employees to disclose whether they have any health issues, comorbidities or conditions which place them at greater risk and must provide workers with information which raises awareness of the dangers of COVID-19, measures to prevent transmission as well as the nature of vaccines used in the country.
If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Employer must:
- inform the National Institute for Occupational Health (Email to OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za or online at https://ohss.nioh.ac.za/);
- inform the Compensation Commissioner;
- investigate the mode of exposure, inlcuding any control failure and review the risk assessment to ensure that adequate controls and PPE are in place;
- determine the need for the temporary closure of the affected work area for decontamination;
- give administrative support to any contact-tracing measures; and
- give employees paid time off to be vaccinated.
Additionally, an employer who employees more than fifty (50) employees is also required to:
- Submit the following categories of data to the National Institute for Occupational Health:
- Each employee’s vulnerability status for serious outcomes of COVID-19 infection;
- details of the COVID-19 screening of employees who are symptomatic;
- details of employees who test positive;
- the number of employees identified as high-risk contacts within the workplace if an employee has tested positive;
- details of the post-infection outcomes of those testing positive which includes the return-to-work assessment; and
- Inform such employees of the submission made and the Company’s adherence to the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
The plan must be made available for inspection by an inspector or such Trade Union or health and safety committee.
Employers with ten (10) or fewer employees must take the following measures:
- Develop a basic plan for the phased-in return of employees to the workplace, taking into account those employees that can work remotely and those over the age of 60 or who have comorbidities;
- Arrange the workplace to ensure a distance of at least one-and-a-half (1.5) metres between employees;
- Ensure that employees that present with symptoms are not allowed to work;
- In the case of an Employee testing positive, immediately contact the provincial inspectorate for instruction and direct such employee in accordance with those instructions;
- Provide cloth masks or otherwise ensure that Employees wear cloth masks covering their mouth and nose while at work;
- Provide each employee with hand sanitizer, soap and clean water to their hands as well as disinfectants to disinfect their workstations;
- Ensure that Employees wash their hands while at work and that workstations are regularly sanitized and disinfected;
Employees are permitted to refuse to work due to exposure to COVID-19 where circumstances arise which, which reasonable justification, appear to that employee or to a health and safety representative, to pose an imminent and serious risk of exposure to COVID-19 subject to:
- The employee, as soon as reasonably practicable, notifying the employer of the refusal and the reason for such refusal;
- A consultation with the compliance officer and the health and safety committee seeking to resolve the issue;
- If the matter cannot be resolved internally within 24 hours, an inspector should be notified.
As always, there is quite a deal of information to be assessed and dealt with and it is important the Employers act within the published guidelines and directions applicable to their specific industry. For clarity or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us directly:
Eben van Deventer 082 412 2845 firstname.lastname@example.org
AJ van Niekerk 079 890 4411 email@example.com
Elri de Bruin 082 753 5695 firstname.lastname@example.org
Riané Smith 071 687 1485 email@example.com
Conrad Luus 072 624 3410 firstname.lastname@example.org
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