Workplace safety regulations for every office in COVID-19
In Level 3 of the national lockdown in South Africa, many office buildings started to reopen. Now in Level 2, most industries have restarted and large groups of people are working at the office again. With this, there are, of course, risks involved, but the South African government gazetted a list of workplace regulations to ensure the safe, health-conscious reintegration into business life.
For starters, each company has to have a health and safety officer, who is responsible for ensuring that everyone is wearing a mask and is adhering to social distancing protocols. Also, as with the rest of the country’s public spaces, there are to be sanitation stations set up for people to sanitise their hands when necessary (and when exiting and entering particular offices and shops).
Workplace Safety Admin
The Gazette on Consolidated Coronavirus COVID-19 Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Workplaces states that, if the company employs more than 500 people, the company must submit a record of its risk assessment. The assessment must be accompanied by a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of its employees from COVID-19. They must, in accordance with the basis of aforementioned risk assessment, develop a plan outlining the protective measures in place for the phased return of its employees – and all this must be done before opening.
The plan should indicate how they will minimise the traffic in the workplace; whether employee shifts will be split into smaller groups, or for companies who work from 9 to 5, if people are to alternate which weeks they work from the office or at home.
On the issue of working from home, companies have been urged, as the ultimate safety measure, to do so for as long as it is viable and possible This decision will not only lower the rate of transmission of COVID-19 at the office but also in public transport and other communal spaces.
Social distancing measures
This falls under the clause of social distancing measures that will be strictly monitored at offices around the country. All employers should arrange the workplace in a manner that ensures minimal contact between workers. Companies and employees are both responsible for keeping a distance of (a minimum of) one and a half metres between workers at all times.
If possible, offices should be kept at minimum capacity and be well ventilated.
Companies that can afford to go even further should partition workstations and utilise more of the space to spread out its employees.
Screening for Workplace Safety
All workplaces should screen everyone who enters the premises. Screening and testing are not the same thing. COVID-19 screening includes a questionnaire, either verbal or written for staff. These questions include whether or not the staff member has been exposed to COVID-19-positive people. Staff must also report any new symptoms and not come to work if they feel ill. Screening also includes checking the temperature and general demeanour of staff members.
Occupational Health and Safety specialist, MAKROSAFE, is constantly updating its database to help industries keep abreast with the changing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Tech reported after the announcement of Level 3.
Makrosafe’s practical guide to preparing for a COVID-19 Workplace has been adopted by most companies to ease the now two-month-long transition into the new normal. And yes, even two months in it is still a transition as the information we have on the virus changes constantly.
The first step: develop a Workplace Safety Plan that encompasses health and safety policies and a procedures programme. The plan should incorporate measures to be taken if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, such as:
How to keep operational with a reduced workforce as well as a plan on how to operate if contractors and suppliers are restricted from the premises (due to illness or quarantine).
Share the Workplace Safety Plan with employees, emphasising key points; staying at home when experiencing coronavirus symptoms and how to make sick leave arrangements. These arrangements should be added into the plan to dissuade workers from camouflaging symptoms if they are concerned about losing pay.
Small and medium-sized businesses that do not have in-house occupational health support must prepare ahead for emergencies by obtaining information from MAKROSAFE’s online occupational health and safety service. Or they can also consult the Chambers of Commerce or relevant social services departments, the site continues.
All workplaces need to have posters and informational content on the risks and regulations of COVID-19 in the workplace, in all official languages.
The information must include hygiene precautions to curb the spread of the virus, such as washing hands and keeping your social distance. Also, the posters and pamphlets must illustrate covering the nose and mouth with an arm or a tissue, avoiding shaking hands, cleaning hands with bottled sanitisers. Posters should be displayed at strategic points throughout the workplace.
Pedal-operated waste bins should be lined with a plastic bag to avoid hand contamination when emptying the contents.
Provide bottled alcohol-based hand sanitisers as well as handwashing stations with soap and running water.
Lastly, offices should be cleaned and sanitised daily by trained cleaning staff.
If you are ill or feel that there is a threat at the workplace, iER can connect you to any emergency team necessary for your situation.
It is imperative to have a plan in place for when anything goes wrong; iER is that safety net.
Because you have the iER app on your phone, you are always connected. The app contains unique built-in alerts and a GPS tracking functionality so that the emergency services can locate you with ease; ensuring a swift, hassle-free rescue.
In the event of an emergency, iER will notify your family and emergency contacts.
iER offers members three different optional plans. It is Standard that everyone gets full and free access to the service providers on the network like in the case of the iER App, which is free on all devices and on all networks.