Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, issued a consolidated directive on the 1st of October 2020 which outlines certain health and safety measures to be implemented in South African workplaces. Most notable are the following:
- Employers are required to undertake a risk assessment taking into consideration OHSA Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents;
- Based on the assessment, develop a plan outlining protective measures for the phased-in return of employees;
- Consult with trade union representatives (if applicable) or OHSA committees or representatives and make the plan available for said individuals to inspect.
Subsection (2) of the Regulation further outlines specific points to be included in the plan.
More than 50 employees
From an administrative perspective, employers with more than 50 employees must submit a record of the risk assessment, together with a Covid-19 health and safety policy to the health and safety committee as well as the Department of Employment and Labour within 21 days of the directive being issued. Submission must be made via email to the applicable Provincial Chief Inspector listed here.
Employees are required to disclose any comorbidities or pre-existing health conditions prior to their return to work. Further, should they exhibit symptoms related to Covid-19, they should be allowed paid sick leave if available.
Employers are further required to minimize contact between employees and to take measures to ensure social distancing such as physical barriers as well as rotation of shifts and working hours so as to minimize congestion on public transport and at the workplace.
Employers with more than 10 employees are further required to appoint a Covid-19 compliance officer for purposes of implementation of the plans and policies as well as to address any employee concerns.
Submission of data
The directive further outlines that employers with more than 50 employees at the workplace must submit specific data to the National Institute for Occupational Health at OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za, or via its online platform which includes but is not limited to:
- Each employee’s vulnerability status for serious outcomes of Covid-19
- Details of the Covid-19 screening of employees that are symptomatic Employees who have tested positive for Covid-19
- High-risk employees
- Return to work assessment outcomes
Refusal to work
Finally, an employee may refuse to perform any work if circumstances arise which, with reasonable justification, appear to that employee or to a health and safety representative to pose an imminent or serious risk of their exposure to Covid-19. The Department can further appoint Labour Inspectors to monitor, inspect, and enforce compliance with the Directive.