Saving Lives - it must be Health and Safety First in Workplace Lockdown Situations
Never before have Covid-19 health and safety measures in the workplace been more critical than in South Africa’s present lockdown situation.
Staying Health and Safe should be the mantra of employers countrywide as they reopen their doors to the return of workers in the Level Four lockdown category. Metropolitan cities, like Cape Town and Johannesburg, have been particularly hard-hit by coronavirus deaths and infections. The lesson being learned is that people working and living in high-density areas are more susceptible to this deadly viral infection.
The frightening reality of the Covid-19 threat was again crystallised over the weekend when Cape Town revealed that supermarkets are the hot-beds of employee infection rates in that metropolitan city. More than 200 supermarket workers have been infected with the dreaded coronavirus.
If lives are to be saved, businesses are urged to take on the board the advice of a leading Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) specialist, MAKROSAFE. The consultancy has once again reiterated the importance of enforcing stringent Covid-19 safety precautions in the working environment. This is now more critical than ever before as thousands of workers, previously in lockdown, return to the workplace at the beginning of May.
Workers are being warned to wear of face masks and to adhere to a strict regime of frequently cleaning their hands with sanitiser or soap and water. Disregarding these basic hygiene principles could be disastrous.
Areas of grave concern
Another area of grave concern is for those people who work in confined spaces, such as the thousands of miners who will be returning to work on the 1st of May. This danger is also a huge red flag to the transport industry that shuttles thousands of people to and from the workplace. This sector of the economy is also returning in full force to work at the beginning of May.
While the Government is in the middle of a balancing act between safeguarding its citizens and reviving a seriously fragile economy, MAKROSAFE is hard at work streamlining new Covid-19 workplace safety measures. It is offering businesses a free Covid-19 Back to Work Prevention Kit which covers every critical aspect of the Occupational Health and Safety measures needed to comply with the regulations and stipulations of the OHS Act.
Dangers facing workers in confined spaces
The risks facing workers in confined spaces are great. This is particularly true of miners. One of the hazards of working underground, apart from injury, is that miners are susceptible to contracting respiratory illnesses. One of the hallmarks of the coronavirus is that it manifests itself in the lungs, causing severe respiratory problems. Another huge problem is that not only do miners operate in confined spaces but are often obligated to work in close contact with fellow colleagues. Social distancing precautions, such as keeping a safe distance from another person, can therefore not always be possible.
The transport industry is another red-alert sector of the economy that can be compromised in the present Covid-19 scenario. Thousands of people rely on public transport to shuttle to-and-from work. Close contact with other people is not always feasible. This is particularly true of taxis. The Government has, however, introduced strict controls in this area. These include providing hand sanitisers to all passengers, restricting the number of people being transported inside the vehicle and ensuring that everyone is wearing a cloth face mask. The transport industry plays another important role in the economy. An integral part of most industries, the transport sector is a vital delivery service and keeping its employees safe and healthy is a top priority.
How industry can help save lives
As President Cyril Ramaphosa has stressed, South African can overcome the Covid-19 pandemic if they join hands and work together in this fight against a common foe. This can only be achieved with a united front. Now, more than ever before, business sectors need to adopt a hard line in the implementation of strict health and safety precautions.
Armed with the free MAKROSAFE Back-to-Work Prevention Kit, effective measures to control the transmission of and the infection by the coronavirus can be controlled. This goldmine of information covers every aspect of OHS requirements and includes comprehensive information on the following:
1. COVID-19 Policy
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Policy
3. Testing / Screening of Employees for COVID-19 Policy
4. Working from Home Policy
5. Working from Home Risk Assessment
6. Travelling to and from Work using Public Transport Risk Assessment
7. Workplace Risk Assessment - Exposure to Infections Diseases
8. Workplace Readiness after Lock
9. Control measures Guidelines
10. E-Learning (unlimited) - Managing Infectious Disease in the Workplace - COVID 19
11. Induction Booklet
12. Toolbox Talks
13. Awareness Posters
14. Daily Mandatory Checklist
Precautions in the workplace
The kit provides employers with the tools to form the backbone of a strong Covid-19 precautionary methodology. It covers every aspect of workplace hygiene and health and safety measures to be adopted during this viral crisis. These include:
• Personal Protective Equipment – the mandatory wearing of facemasks and, where applicable, goggles, gloves, headgear, overalls, safety boots and covers
• Testing and screening employees for symptoms of the coronavirus on their arrival at work
• The assessment of health and safety measures for employees using public transport
• Preparing the workplace for the return of employees - this entails sanitising the premises
• Methodology for managing Covid-19 in the workplace
• Providing employers with Covid-19 awareness posters that should be prominently displayed throughout the work areas, as well as in ablution blocks
• Providing employers with mandatory daily checklists
Risk Assessments are critical
Conducting risk assessments in the workplace is another critical aspect of the Government’s Covid-19 policy. MAKROSAFE says that by adopting effective risk assessment criteria, South African industries can inculcate a culture and health and safety in the workplace.
To comply with the terms of the OHS Act, all industry must adhere to risk assessment criteria. To ensure effective risk assessment controls and to become OHS compliant, MAKROSAFE helps business to identify, control and manage hazards and risks in the workplace. This is an effective control-measure to safeguard employees from possible death, viral infection and injury in their working environment.
By conducting regular workplace inspections, employers can also protect their workers from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as safeguarding them from hazards posing the threat of injury or fatality. Inspections identify hazards and plans of action that can be adopted to address existing weak links in the working environment’s health and safety armour.
Maintaining health and safety programmes
MAKROSAFE says that by maintaining and implementing health and safety programmes, the South African business sector will play a vital role during the pandemic. Health and safety in the workplace is an ongoing challenge and industry should embrace the help of OHS specialists, like MAKROSAFE, to help them understand all relevant Covid-19 legislation and to achieve OHS compliance.
This aspect of the OHS Act requires ongoing and time-consuming follow-ups and administrative processes. An impartial assessment of the health and safety of a workplace, as well as identifying corrective solutions, will accelerate the achievement of OHS compliance and introduce measures that will reduce the impact of health infractions or injury in the working environment.
The free Covid-19 Lockdown Prevention Kit is available on the MAKROSAFE SafetyWallet online platform. The SafetyWallet provides employers with a user-friendly and secure online database. It provides a roadmap to achieving health and safety in the workplace, as required by the OHS Act. The database paves the way for the steadfast growth of an effective health and safety compliance record. The SafetyWallet online platform helps to simplify and support the process of establishing health and safety programmes. This secure database is a free resource. It is updated daily with all the required legislation and Covid-19 policies available at the touch of a button.
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