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CWAO and COVID-19 Worker Rights

Download Government Directive

Download the Directive By the Minister of Employment and Labour issued by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in terms of Section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (ACT NO. 57 OF 2002


Download Health and Safety Act

Occupational Heath and Safety Act 85 of 1993


Summary of the COVID-19 Direction on
Health & Safety Measures in the Workplace 28 April 2020

02 May 2020

1. The Purpose of Directive

  • The Directive obliges employers to provide a working environment for workers that is safe and without risks.
  • The Directive sets out measures employers must take:
    • to prevent infection transmission
    • to protect the health & safety of workers, contractors and their workers, and members of the public who enter workplaces or are exposed to their workplaces

The Directive does not:

  • reduce the employer’s existing obligations in terms of Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
  • prevent the employer from implementing more stronger measures to avoid transmission

2. Application of Directive

The Directive applies to:

  • All employers who manufacture, supply or provide essential goods or services
  • All employers starting work as per Level 4
  • Retail pharmacies

The Directive does not apply to:

  • Workplaces excluded from OHSA
  • Medical and health care services defined in the Disaster Management Act and for which Regulations exist

3. Duration of Directive

  • The Directive will apply until the end of the national disaster

4. Measures employers must carry out

4.1. Administrative measures

  • All employers must carry out a risk assessment in order to implement the measures stipulated by this Directive
  • Employers with more than 500 workers must submit a record of its risk assessment, along with its written COVID-19 health & safety policy, to the Department of Employment and Labour and to its health & safety committee
  • All workers must be informed of the Directive’s content and must be given information about how to prevent the spread of the virus
  • Workers must be informed that ‘if they are sick’ or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 they must not come to work and to take sick leave in line with section 22 of the BCEA.
  • Employers must appoint a manager to address the concerns of workers or workplace representatives.
  • The Manager must consult with the health and safety committee, if it exists, on the nature of the hazard and measures to be taken
  • The number of workers at the workplace must, as far as practicable, be reduced through ‘rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems’ so that workers keep a safe distance
  • Safe distancing must also be ensured where workers interact with the public
  • If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the DEL must be informed and the risk assessment must be reviewed.

4.2. Social distancing measures

Employers must:

  • ensure minimal contact between workers while working, including spacing of 1.5 metres
  • reduce, if necessary, the number of workers in the workplace to achieve social distancing
  • Where social distancing is not practical, set up physical barriers between workers or, if necessary, supply workers free of charge with PPE
  • Ensure social distancing in common areas like canteens and lavatories through queue control. Dividing the workforce into groups or staggering breaks can also be considered.

4.3. Health & safety measures

4.3.1. Symptom Screening

Employers must:

  • Undertake symptom screening
  • Every employer must screen ‘any worker’ when they report for work for symptoms connected with COVID-19, like fever, cough, sore throat, red eyes or shortness of breath
  • Employers must also screen for other symptoms like body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and tiredness
  • Undertake medical surveillance and testing if required to do so by the National Department of Health. Procedures to be followed when symptoms are present:

  • worker who has the COVID-19 symptoms must not be allowed into the workplace or to report for work
  • Workers must also inform the employer if they suffer these symptoms while at work
  • The employer must isolate a worker with COVID-19 symptoms who is already at work and then safely transport the worker for self-isolation, or a medical examination or for testing.
  • The employer must then assess if other workers may have been infected and refer them for screening and disinfect the area
  • The employer must ensure that the worker is tested or referred to an identified testing site
  • The worker with symptoms must be tested and placed on paid sick leave as per the BCEA
  • The employer must apply to the TERS if the worker has no more paid sick leave due.

4.3.2. Procedures to be followed when a worker has Covid-19:

  • If the worker got COVID-19 at work, the employer must put in a COIDA compensation claim
  • The employer must not discriminate against the employee who has tested positive
  • An employer can only allow a worker who has had COVID-19 to return to work if the worker has had a medical examination testing negative, observes all the COVID-19 prevention protocols and is monitored by the employer on return to work

4.3.3. Sanitisers, disinfectants and ‘other measures’

Employers must:

  • Ensure, free of charge, sufficient quantities of hand sanitizers that have at least 70% alcohol
  • Provide hand sanitiser at the entrance of and inside the workplace, which workers and others must use
  • Provide workers who work away from the workplace with adequate hand sanitiser
  • Provide workers who interact with the public with adequate sanitiser for themselves and for those they interact with
  • Disinfect all work surfaces and work equipment before and after work
  • Regularly disinfect all work surfaces and work equipment during working hours
  • Regularly disinfect toilets, common areas, door handles and shared electronic equipment
  • Not use biometric systems or make them Covid-19 proof
  • Ensure workers are able to wash their hands with soap and clean water
  • Use only paper towels
  • Ensure workers interacting with the public are able to sanitise their hands after every interaction
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces workers and members of the public come into contact

4.3.4. Cloth mask

Employers must:

  • provide every worker with a minimum of 2 cloth masks, free of charge, to wear at work and while travelling to and from work. Masks must meet requirements of DTI.
  • Arrange for the washing, drying and ironing of cloth masks
  • Require workers to wear mask in the workplace
  • Inform and train workers on how to use the cloth mask (The number of masks to be given and how often they must be replace, are to be decided according to sectoral guidelines which have yet to be issued.)

4.3.5. Public access workplace

Employers must:

  • Ensure there is a 1.5 metre distance between workers and members of the public
  • Ensure that physical barriers are put up or workers are given face shields, where social distancing is not possible.
  • Screen anyone entering such workplaces
  • Ensure persons entering such workplaces wear masks while inside the premises.

4.3.6. Ventilation

Employers must:

  • Keep workplaces well ventilated. This can be done naturally or through a ventilation extraction system that is regularly cleaned and maintained.

4.3.7. Other PPE

Employers must:

  • regularly check specific websites to see if any additional PPE is recommended. The websites are those of the National Department of Health, National Institute of Communicable Diseases and the National Institute for Occupational Health.

5. Small Business

Employers with fewer than 10 workers must:

  • Make sure workers work 1.5 metres apart or put barriers between them
  • Provide workers with cloth masks or allow the workers to wear a cloth covering over the face and mouth
  • Give each worker hand sanitizer, soap and clean water with which to wash their hands
  • Give each worker disinfectant to clean their workstations, which must be disinfected regularly
  • Contact the COVID-19 hotline at 0800 02 9999 for instructions if a worker presents with the COVID-19 symptoms and then advise the worker accordingly
  • A worker with COVID-19 symptoms must not be allowed to work.

6. Worker obligations

  • Workers are to comply with the measures the Directive instructs employers to implement.

7. Monitoring and enforcing the Directive

  • Designated OHSA inspectors can monitor compliance and impose penalties on employers who fail to do so (as per sections 28, 29, 30 and 38 of OHSA).

8. Sectoral Guidelines

  • Sectoral Guidelines will be developed at Nedlac. A template for such sector specific guidelines is contained in Annexure A of the Directive.

A message from CWAO

What can you do if your workplace is unsafe?

  1. If you believe that your employer has not implemented measures to protect you properly as outlined in the directive above, you have the right to report your concerns to the compliance officer and to management.
  2. Give management a clear set of demands and a clear deadline to meet them.
  3. If management still refuses to follow the measures outlined in the Directive, then workers should report the company to the Police and to the Department of Employment and Labour. Workers should not be forced to work in unsafe conditions.
  4. Workers will have some protection against dismissal if they follow these steps before refusing to work to protect their health.

Report your employer to a Department of Labour provincial inspector:
Eastern Cape 082 908 2318
Free State 066 304 3469
Gauteng 082 900 8131
KZN 060 985 9286
Mpumalanga 081 382 4008
Limpopo 082 880 4297
Northern Cape 082 802 6796
North West 082 908 2308
Western Cape 082 791 4485

Contact CWAO for more advice

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