Managing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for Employers

18.03.2020
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Dear valued Tenants/Investors/Service Providers

Following the recent announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa, declaring a National State of Disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act amidst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, the East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) would like to encourage all Tenants/Investors/Service Providers to take necessary measures to intensify hygiene control to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the precinct.

To that end, protecting the health of all employees, their families, visitors and business partners is a priority. The ELIDZ continues to monitor the ever-changing situation regularly and will continue to take appropriate and updated preventive actions.

From a health & safety perspective, what legal obligations does an employer have in light of the global outbreak of Covid-19?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 places an express obligation on the employer to maintain a working environment that is safe and healthy. On the issue of a healthy working environment, the employer must ensure that the workplace is free from any risk to the health of its employees as far as it is reasonably practicable. Within the context of Covid-19, there is a clear obligation on the employer to manage the risk of contamination in the workplace. Practically, the employer can ensure a healthy working environment by ensuring that the workplace is clean and hygienic, promoting regular hand-washing by employees, promoting good respiratory hygiene by employees and keeping employees informed on developments related to Covid-19.

What practical steps can an employer take to ensure that the workplace is safeguarded from Covid-19?

As an initial step, the employer should conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine the likelihood of contamination in the workplace. This assessment should include a contingency and business continuity plan should there be an outbreak of the illness. At this stage, given that South Africa 61 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the risk of contamination is rapidly rising.

Further to the above the ELIDZ would like to encourage all Tenants/Investors/Service Providers to consider the following proactive steps given the scale of the illness globally:

  • Follow health advice and information: the employer should follow health advice from the WHO (as an international source) and the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (as local sources)
  • Communicate with employees: the employer should consistently provide updates on Covid-19 to employees and its approach at work regarding attendance and preventing the spread of infection. The employer may also wish to display posters that provide information on the illness and hygiene.
  • Prevent the spread of infection: the employer should consider that there are adequate facilities for employees to wash and/or sanitise their hands regularly within the workplace. If it becomes necessary, the employer may introduce a designated area in the workplace where employees may self-isolate if they experience symptoms whilst at work or decide otherwise. The WHO has advised that, in countries where the illness has started spreading, employees with a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 or more) should be encouraged to stay at home and seek medical attention immediately. As a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the virus, the access card scanners at entrance points will be repositioned to enable entrants to scan access cards by themselves. To do so, security will request to see your access card before you may swipe your card to release the boom gates.
  • Identify vulnerable workers: Covid-19 poses a greater risk to employees with weakened immune systems and long-term health conditions. Vulnerable workers include pregnant employees and disabled employees. Employers should pay special attention to such employees
  • Update emergency contact information: employees should be required to review and update their emergency contact information.

For more information on the coronavirus, please visit: http://www.health.gov.za/index.php/gf-tb-program/465-corona-virus-outbreak

Best regards

ELIDZ Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Mr Simphiwe Kondlo

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