The outbreak of COVID19 is impacting most companies across the world and in South Africa, which requires us to meet this threat, to adapt and do everything we can to minimise and stop the spread of contagion.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we are obliged to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, including minimizing the transmission of contagious diseases. Therefore, the following guidelines will be adopted for dealing with the COVID-19 impact:
Basic Preventative Measures
- Wash your hands often with soap and water (20 seconds of scrubbing) or use alcohol-based hand cleaners (cover all surfaces and rub until dry). Take care that the alcohol cleaners are not simply anti-bacterial and must contain alcohol of more than 70%. Many medical practitioners recommend soap and water as being most effective.
- Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can and immediately wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands. If you forget and cup your mouth, wash your hands immediately, before touching anything.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which accelerates the spread of infections.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick. Stand more than a metre away when coughing and sneezing.
- Social distancing is recommended – i.e. always stand at least 1,5 metres away from all colleagues, strangers. The virus is unlikely to travel via coughing or sneezing over a distance greater than a 1,5 metres.
- If you are sick, avoid contact with others, including parties, meetings, and events. Employees must immediately move more than a metre away from employees displaying symptoms.
- Do not share glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, cigarettes/vapes/JUULs, lipstick/makeup, etc.
- Employees who are at increased risk for complication from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions are urged to consult their physician about steps they can take to protect their health, as a precautionary measure
- Even in your own home, if you suspect you are infected, avoid close contact with family member and go to great lengths to self-quarantine. Insist on other family members doing the same.
All the above are simple measures and are recommended to be communicated and implemented with immediate effect.
Employee Responsibilities and Obligations
Each and every employee is to be mindful of all the guidelines in this document, take heed of this and act responsibly in relation to such requirement.
Employees must be mindful of their responsibilities in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act as identified in contract, policy and practice.
It is also up to each and every person to be mindful of and remind others of good practice and help wherever they can.
Symptoms and Testing
Employees who appear to have any of the symptoms acute respiratory illness symptoms are advised to stay at home and seek medical advice.
Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms upon arrival at work, or become sick during the day, should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
Should an employee contract the virus, management will ensure that the matter is handled sympathetically without the employee(s) feeling they are being stigmatised. Stigmatisation may lead to employees not coming forward and prevent them from seeking healthcare immediately. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that we are trying to prevent the spread of the disease, for the general benefit of all other employees and the company.
- Employees who are well but have a sick family member with COVID-19 at home, should notify their supervisor and refer to their identified clinic for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should immediately report to management and request a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- Most of the infection cases happens between family members. For this reason, if you, or one of your family members is sick, separate yourself/them from others in the family, even in the home.
- to self-quarantine as per b.) above for the remainder of the required absence of at least two weeks.
Increased risk level
For the general South African public, such as workers in non-healthcare settings and where it is unlikely that work tasks create an increased risk of exposures to COVID-19, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is currently considered low. However, should there be evidence of significant Human to Human transmission in the immediate community or facility, precautionary measures should be stepped up, as follows:
- Monitor employees – Check employees daily for signs and symptoms. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
- Testing – Follow the testing procedures as per above and ensure the necessary precautionary measures are followed, e.g. quarantining, if tested positive. If normal cold or flu, staying at home until clear of all symptoms for at least 24 hours
- Social Distancing in the workplace – Avoid physical contact e.g. don’t shake hands, maintain 1,5 metres. clearance between co-workers, don’t touch surfaces, avoid unnecessary meetings, or similar activities
- Limit Direct Meetings – Use electronic methods e.g. Skype Meeting, conference calls, etc. to supplement direct meeting contact.
For Open WHO see: https://openwho.org/