Solidarteit Wêreld
2020 – Uitgawe 2
Smart work measures to ensure a safe working environment
Deur Michelle | 25 Mei 2020

By Reon Janse van Rensburg 

“It is key to understand that the health of the people of South Africa is not negotiable and that it must be prioritised. However, it is not beneficial to the country, the economy and the people of South Africa if the physical threat is overcome without at the same time limiting the economic threats and enabling the economy to function and survive the Covid-19 storm. We have to be fearless against the virus and fearless in favour of the economy.” – Dirk Hermann, CEO of Solidarity

In April, Solidarity presented a memorandum to the President containing suggested measures that, according to Solidarity, could be implemented so that South Africans are able to live and work safely and in good health while fighting the coronavirus. More than 1 800 South Africans contributed to this initiative by sending their proposals to Solidarity.

The proposed measures include amending regulations in such a way that people who are healthy and able to work are permitted to return to their jobs.

The measures also include the strict application of regulations regarding hygiene and the use of protective equipment, rules for social distancing, flexible working hours, restrictions on the number of workers permitted in the workplace, workplace testing and other risk curbing initiatives.

According to Flip Buys, Head of the Solidarity Movement, it is necessary to shift from allowing only essential workers at work to permitting everyone who is able to work to do so. We should not have to choose between health and work, but should create a healthy work environment for as many people as possible.

Smart work practices entail the following:

Without delving into legislation, all owners, employers and persons in control of premises have a general duty to ensure the health and safety of all employees and other persons at the workplace; ensure that no persons other than employees are negatively affected by the activities at the workplace; and conduct assessments to determine the hazards and risks for health and safety at the workplace, considering work procedures and processes. After completing the assessment, they must determine what measures are necessary to eliminate threats. If the identified threats cannot be eliminated, they must determine the measures that are necessary to protect their employees and other persons, implement these measures and monitor the effectiveness thereof.

An employer should do the following before reopening the workplace:

  • Risk management analysis

Appropriate risk analyses must be done at all workplaces that were closed during the lockdown, before any work is resumed. The measures that are necessary to eliminate or control risks must be identified and implemented. Once work recommences, a daily analysis of the Covid-19 threat at the workplace must be done and a written record of these risk analyses must be kept. 

  • Phasing in and “normalising” of production and work 

Employers must accept that as long as the risk of a highly contagious virus such as Covid-19 remains in the workplace, work and production will not return to normal. The continued threat of infection means that measures such as maintaining high levels of hygiene, social distancing and reducing the number of people at the workplace will become the new normal.

  • Restriction on the number of people at the workplace

Employers can eliminate or reduce the risk of transmission by limiting the number of people at the workplace. This can be done in various ways, including rotation and working in shifts, or allowing employees to work from home where possible.

  • Mass screening of workers at large workplaces 

The workforce should be screened weekly on the employer’s premises in order to manage risks and ensure continuous production. Where screenings indicate possible infection, the employees should be referred for medical testing at an appropriate healthcare facility immediately.

 

  • Safety equipment and protective clothing 

Wearing appropriate protective clothing such as masks, safety goggles, glasses and gloves in the workplace must be compulsory for the duration of the Covid-19 threat. This is of particular importance where contact with colleagues and clients is unavoidable. The required safety equipment and items must be provided by the employer.

 

  • Occupational health and safety guidelines 

Employers must implement an action plan in the event that employees are directly exposed to Covid-19 or test positive for the virus. This action plan must include reporting, notices, monitoring, reorganisation of work and decontamination. Employers should prepare an isolation room at the workplace where employees who exhibit symptoms of contagion can be assessed and receive care. Good record keeping is required at all times to ensure that contact tracing is possible, should an employee or visitor test positive for Covid-19.

 

  • Hygiene 

Employers must ensure that handwashing facilities are available near all areas such as restrooms, kitchens, entrances to buildings, cafeterias and consultation rooms. Posters indicating best handwashing practices must be put up and visible at all entrances and handwashing facilities. They must make hand sanitiser (containing at least 60% alcohol) available and promote the use thereof where there are no handwashing facilities. Face masks and gloves must be provided for use by employees who experience symptoms as well as dustbins with lids to dispose of these items safely. Employers must also equip cleaners with the necessary cleaning materials and protective gear to deal with the waste of Covid-19 positive people, and must train them in cleaning techniques to protect both themselves and their colleagues from contamination. In general, employers must ensure that clean shops, facilities and workplaces are maintained.

These measures can be adopted as a code of good practice to guide employers in ensuring that their workplaces meet the safety requirements set by Government. This way, businesses can be reopened in order to –

  • Limit job losses and social decay;
  • Generate tax revenue for the State;
  • Improve their sustainability; and
  • Enable workers to earn income and support their dependants while remaining in good health.
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Redakteursbrief

Met die Covid-19-inperking steeds volstoom aan die gang, bring ons vir jou nóg ’n inperkingsuitgawe op jou rekenaarskerm, hierdie keer met gemak saamgestel asof dit al jare lank so gedoen word. Almal het die nuwe manier van doen se ritme nou reeds bemeester, met sommige wat intussen terug is by die werk terwyl ander nog […]


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