28 April 2020
As South Africa eases its way back into a more active economy after 35 days in Level Five lockdown, employers are under pressure to adhere to strict Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations in the workplace.
Prevention of reinfection after lockdown remains crucial and t hey are being asked to adopt a Working from Home policy wherever possible.
Although certain sectors of the economy can now kick-start the slow return to normalcy, they must limit their workforce to one-third of its usual complement.They must enforce stringent health precautions, such as sanitising their premises and providing workers with sanitisers or facilities at which to wash hands with soap and water.They must safeguard the safety of their workforce with the use of face masks and the implementation of other safety measures, such as regular risk assessments in the workplace. All of these requirements place an extra burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the South African industry. These responsibilities require professional monitoring and supervision.
MAKROSAFE risk assessments avoid production halts
That is where a leading OHS specialist, MAKROSAFE , plays a vital role in the new healthy and safe return-to-work landscape. While the OHS Act places the obligation on employers to maintain a healthy and safe working environment, MAKROSAFE’s risk assessments have a built-in contingency plan to will assist businesses to cope with the new Covid-19 regulations, such as possible contamination of the workplace.
MAKROSAFE has developed a set of Covid-19 protocols in line with the OHS Act 85 of 1993 to guide employers on the implementation of the new measures that must be put into place. These measures will help prevent losses in productivity and health threats that may exist in the workplace.
What the return to work entails
Before the first batch of the economy’s workforce return to their places of employment on 1st May 2020, each sector will have to adhere to a strict set of new conditions. These are:
- Each sector must adhere to the Covid-19 Prevention and Mitigation Plan with the Minister of Employment and Labour, as well as abiding by conditions stipulated by other Cabinet Ministers relevant to that sector of the economy. These stipulations will be over-and-above existing health and safety protocols.
- Businesses must implement Covid-19 risks assessments and educate their workers on the new protection measures.
- Vulnerable employees, such as people over 60 years of age, pregnant women and those with disabilities, must be clearly identified.
- Employers will be responsible for the safe transportation of their workers.
- Employees must be screened before entering the workplace.
- Precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at work must be undertaken.
- All work surfaces and shared equipment must be sanitised.
- Premises must have good ventilation.
- Employees who become ill must be monitored.
- Monitoring systems must be adopted to identify employee infections and to comply with safety protocols.
The OHS Act places the onus on employers to maintain a healthy and safe working environment. To do so, risk assessments must be put into place to identify the possibility of viral contamination in the workplace. This includes the implementation of a contingency plan in the event of the outbreak of coronavirus on the premises.
Spotlighting the risk assessment protocol
MAKROSAFE has developed an in-depth set of protocols to assist employers in this “new-age” South Africa. It helps business owners to identify vulnerable employees who are at greater risk of Covid-19 contamination. These are people whose immune systems are weakened and include pregnant women, older and disabled employees.
This area of new risk assessment protocols has been imposed by the Department of Employment and Labour. It has made an urgent appeal to employers to adopt the prescriptions OHS Act in relation to Covid-19. The OHS Act, together with the Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations, stipulates that employers must maintain a safe environment, free of risks, to ensure the health of its workers.
Employers must introduce steps to mitigate or eliminate existing and potential hazards. MAKROSAFE has updated its risk assessment protocols in terms of the threats posed by Covid-19. Taking into consideration the hazards posed by the possible outbreak of the coronavirus in the workplace, it has introduced a combination of new control measures. One of these is the inclusion of the stricter use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves and face masks.
The Department of Employment and Labour has also made an urgent appeal to employers to prepare their working arenas to cope with the pandemic and the possibility of further outbreaks of the viral disease. It has advised businesses to “go back to the basics” by identifying hazards and conducting regular risk assessments to ascertain the levels of risk exposure. All of this information should be relayed to their workforce.
The MAKROSAFE Risk Assessment protocol embraces the Department’s Covid-19 guidelines, developed along the lines of traditional prevention of infection as well as occupational hygiene and health practices.
Focusing on possible flaws to prevent Covid-19
The Covid-19 guide plan, developed by the Department, focuses on areas where possible flaws may exist in the fight against the virus. All of these areas are catered for by MAKROSAFE and include the implementation of:
- Administrative controls that apply to both the employer and the employee, such as a stay-at-home approach to employees who are ill
- Minimizing human contact with the use of virtual communications such as using a platform like Skype to conduct conference calls
- Keeping the number of employees on-site to a minimum by introducing s shift-work roster
- Developing emergency communication plans by appointing a task team to answer worker concerns, using an internet-based line of communications to provide workers with current training and education on Covid-19 risks
- Introducing Personal protective Equipment (PPE)
- Proving training material in different languages and appropriate to the level of worker literacy
- Engineering controls call for the isolation of from any work-related hazard
- The installation of good ventilation, such as high-efficiency air filters
- The use of physical barriers, such as face shields
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employers are requested to introduce Personal Protective Equipment to help prevent exposure to the coronavirus. PPE’s include aprons, coats, face masks, face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, hair covers, overalls, respiratory protection equipment and shoe covers.
MAKROSAFE’s Risk Assessments are updated weekly and cover all mandatory changes to the Covid-19 guidelines.
Safe Work Practices
Safe Work Practices include procedures to be adopted to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of exposure to a hazard. This entails maintaining a healthy work environment and the promotion of personal hygiene. Examples are the provision of foot-pedal refuse bins, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitisers, paper towels, disinfectants and the display of hand-washing instruction signs in restrooms.
The sectors of the economy that will be returning to work at the beginning of May for the first time since the initial lockdown in March are:
- Agriculture – export agriculture, including wool and wine
- Floriculture and Horticulture
- Forestry, pulp and paper
- Mining – open cast mines at 100% capacity, all other mines at 50%
- Financial and professional services (JSE will also remain open)
- Global export business services
- Postal and telecommunications
- Fibre optic and IT services
- Formal waste recycling – glass, plastic, paper and metal
- Transport – buses, taxi services and private motor vehicles can now operate at all times with passenger-load and stringent hygiene restrictions
From the start of the Level Four lockdown, the Government has relaxed two areas of contention previously denied to consumers. Tobacco products can once again be sold, while food retail outlets that have been restricted to the sale of essential-only items throughout the lockdown period can now open their shelves to sell the full range of products in stock.
Saving the best for last
The MAKROSAFE SafetyWallet is offering South African businesses a FREE Lockdown Prevention Kit. This invaluable tool to keep everyone at work safe and healthy includes:
- Covid-19 Policy
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Policy
- Testing / Screening of Employees for Covid-19 Policy
- Working from Home Policy
- Working from Home Risk Assessment
- Travelling to and from Work using Public Transport Risk Assessment
- Workplace Risk Assessment – Exposure to Infections Diseases
- Workplace Readiness after Lock
- Control measures Guidelines
- E-Learning (unlimited) – Managing Infectious Disease in the Workplace – Covid 19
- Induction Booklet
- Toolbox Talks
- Awareness Posters
- Daily Mandatory Checklist
This is MAKROSAFE’s contribution to rewarding companies that comply for Occupational Health and Safety Act regulations and stipulations. The consultancy’s footprint on the South African OHS compliance field over the last 17 years has seen the introduction of world-class methodologies. This has enabled companies from 15 different industries to manage a cost-effective health and safety programme, beneficial to workers and overall health, safety and productivity.
Visit out website today for more information – www.safetywallet.co.za
Source: IOL at https://www.iol.co.za/news/partnered/how-companies-can-prevent-the-spread-of-covid-19-after-lockdown-47298573