Are your workplace COVID protocols up to scratch?

With the start of the 2021 commercial year coinciding with the peak of South Africa’s second wave of COVID-19 infections, the Department of Employment and Labour has called on local businesses to ensure that their workplaces are still following all required safety measures and protocols.

After all, it may be a new year, but the pandemic is unfortunately still with us, and it is your responsibility as a business owner to check that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect employees, suppliers, and customers.

Based on the most recent regulations gazetted by Government, here is a simple checklist to ensure your business is remaining lockdown level-three compliant, in order to avoid a hefty fine or worse:

1.      Do you have a COVID-19 plan and compliance officer?

First and foremost, all businesses are required to develop a COVID-19 plan which outlines measures being taken to meet the standards and national health and safety protocols. Furthermore, businesses are required to appoint a COVID-19 compliance officer to oversee the implementation of these prevention measures and ensure that the workplace meets the prescribed health and safety standards.

2.      Are you following the required health and safety protocols?

Business owners must ensure adherence to all relevant protocols set out in the COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Directive, as well as any applicable sector-specific directives. For example, anyone who enters a workplace or public space must wear a cloth face mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times. Furthermore, regular handwashing and strict employee hygiene measures should be prescribed.

3.      Have you implemented the necessary policies to ensure social distancing?

Businesses with more than 100 employees must try to reduce the number of employees at the workplace at any given time by introducing the rotation of workers; staggered working hours; shift systems; and remote working arrangements. A phased approach to reopening is also recommended to ensure social distancing measures are adhered to. For businesses with fewer employees, the key is to ensure that social distancing is practiced – for example, you must ensure the distance between desks meets the required guidelines.

4.      Are you protecting vulnerable employees?

In a business’ COVID-19 plan, special measures must be outlined for employees who are 60 years and older, as well as for those with co-morbidities such as asthma, to facilitate their safe return to work. Wherever possible, measures should be taken to enable these more vulnerable employees to work from home.

5.      Is the business abiding by curfews and restrictions?

While all brick-and-mortar wholesale and retail shops are allowed to continue trading under the level three extension, there is still a curfew and alcohol ban in place. The country’s curfew has been shortened by an hour in the morning and now runs from 21h00 – 05h00, which means all employees need to leave work with enough time to be home by 21h00 at night. 

It is vital that all businesses comply with the above listed COVID-19 regulations, or risk being shut down. In this case, the employer will be given a prohibition notice and will remain closed until measures in line with COVID-19 guidelines from the Department of Health are put in place. Furthermore, it should be noted that non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations is a criminal offence and a case can be opened with the South African Police Service (SAPS).

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