When Returning to Work after Lockdown and Health and Safety
When Returning to Work after Lockdown and Health and Safety for thousands of South Africans, the 1st May 2020 heralds a new dawn. It will be the end of a five-week intensive lockdown and the beginning of their return to a Healthy and Safe workplace.
Moving from Level Five to Level Four, the Government is attempting to inject new life into a dormant economy while implementing a host of Health and Safety measures to safeguards us against the spread and infection of the deadly coronavirus. Level Four is described as “moderate to high virus spread, with low to moderate readiness”.
However, there are only a handful of different industries involved in the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. They have all been classified as low to moderate risk sectors of the economy. These are the industries that have been earmarked to return to work and considered as vital to resuscitating a massive economic down-surge due to the global pandemic.
• All agriculture, including wool and wine
• Floriculture and horticulture
• Forestry, pulp and paper
• Mining (open cast mines at 100% capacity, all other mines at 50%
• All financial and professional services
• Global export businesses
• Postal and telecommunications
• Fibre optic and IT services
• Formal waste recycling (glass, plastic, paper and metal)
• Buses and taxis, subject to stringent passenger loads and hygiene protocols
• Food retail stores that are now allowed to sell items previously labelled as non-essential items
Return to work Health and Safety Problems
While a return to work has been applauded nationwide, it has nevertheless opened up a can of worms among certain sectors of the workforce. Mothers who are home-schooling their children during the lockdown, and who have to return to work, cannot employ child-carers under the existing restrictions. They are facing the dilemma of schools re-opening at a much later stage because the Government is concerned about the safety of older people, such as grandparents, who provide after-school childcare. The Government is worried that older people could become targets of the coronavirus if schools reopen too soon and have breakouts of the Covid-19 viral infection. Adding to the complications is the fact that domestic workers and au pairs are more than likely to be the last of the South African workforce allowed back into the economic mainstream. Meanwhile, because of current restrictions, it is unlikely that businesses will be allowed to operate nurseries and after-school care facilities on their premises.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is encouraging employers to adopt a working-from-home strategy but this is not always possible in certain sectors of the economy.
One thing is for sure. It is not going to be “business as usual” for a long time to come. The Level Four lockdown involves a Government-imposed risk-adjusted approach. The various sectors of industry will have to adhere to a strict health and safety regime, while workers will find themselves facing a new reality. They will be subjected to:
• Daily screening for Covid-19 symptoms
• Submitting to a strict hygiene regime of regular handwashing with soap or sanitiser
• Maintaining a one-meter distance from fellow workmates
• Wearing and using, where necessary, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face masks, shoe covers, overalls and goggles
This risk-adjusted approach to the workplace is to prevent the spread of the infection by early detection of the Covid-19 virus.
Phased reintroduction to the workplace
Industries that are being phased back into the workplace have been categorised in terms of their contributions to the economy, the impact of lockdown on family livelihoods and the level of risk of infection and transmission posed by the different sectors.
South Africa’s total workforce involves more than 10 million people. So, in reality, only a moderate percentage of employees will return to work as Level Four earmarks the return of a workforce restricted to one-third of the employees in each sector.
Risk assessments spell stringent workplace Health and Safety Controls
As the Government continues to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it has introduced more stringent risk assessment measures. This requires a thorough working knowledge of the OHS Act and all of its additional Covid-19 control measures.
Professional advice and guidance on assessing risks in the workplace, placing a particular emphasis on health issues, is offered to South Africa’s industries by MAKROSAFE, a leading OHS consultancy with hundreds of clients nationwide.
This OHS specialist as devised a Covid-19 readiness plan of action, together with a FREE offering of its Back-to-Work Prevention Kit. It also focusses on risk assessment requirements and guides companies through the quagmire of legalese stipulated in the OHS Act.
MAKROSAFE keeps close tabs on the latest Covid-19 Government-imposed regulations, updating its SafetyWallet platform daily. It is mindful of the National Command Council’s decisions which determine lockdown levels. These are based on the health-care system’s capacities and the assessment rates of infection.
Industries will have to appoint managing committees to monitor risk assessment systems to comply with the OHS Act and to identify infections among employees.
Assessing the risks
MAKROSAFE Risk Assessments ensure that people returning to the workplace will do so safely, and with the highest-possible protocols in place to ensure that their health is not compromised.
Their assessors identify activities to control all risk-factors. They then suggest measures that can be put into place to control any risks facing the workforce.
MAKROSAFE only employs highly-trained assessors who constantly update their knowledge and hone their skills to keep abreast of industrial developments and trends, with particular emphasis on Covid-19 compliance requirements. This enables the assessors to pinpoint possible risks at the embryo-stage and to introduce control measures to negate or minimise risks to an acceptable level.
The control and success of risk assessment measures is monitored and regularly. MAKROSAFE briefs its clients continuously to ensure that they are kept abreast of risks that may exist in the workplace and measures which should be taken to safeguard employees.
By making use of this professional service, company owners can free up valuable time to devote to running their business, while MAKROSAFE Health and Safety Risk Assessment ensures compliance to the OHS Act.
The Covid-19 Readiness Plan of Action
To simplify employee communication and management channels, businesses should develop a policies and procedures manual relating to relevant Covid-19 Government requirements.
MAKROSAFE has adopted a readiness plan of action to help business cope with the Government’s conditions regarding its phased return to work approach. It will help industry to create and maintain a risk-free and safe environment, in accordance with the OHS Act’s requirements.
The challenge facing those people returning to work is to accept and to put into practice daily routines that will help safeguard them against viral infection. This means undergoing daily screening for symptoms of the virus, increased hygiene protocols, wearing protective clothing, including face masks, and continued social distancing practices.
Covid-19 Back to Work Prevention Kit
MAKROSAFE has also developed a Covid-19 Back to Work prevention kit on its SafetyWallet online platform. The kit is available FREE of charge and includes a goldmine of information involving:
• COVID-19 Policy
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Policy
• Testing / Screening of Employees for COVID-19 Policy
• Working from Home Policy
• Working from Home Risk Assessment
• Travelling to and from Work using Public Transport Risk Assessment
• Workplace Risk Assessment - Exposure to Infectious Diseases
• Workplace Readiness after Lockdown
• Control measure Guidelines
• E-Learning (unlimited) - Managing Infectious Disease (Covid-19) in the Workplace
• Induction Booklet
• Toolbox Talks
• Awareness Posters
• Daily Mandatory Checklists
Armed with this information and together with the support of MAKROSAFE highly trained professionals, South African companies can resume operations safe in the knowledge that they have the equipment to protect the health and safety of their workers.
MAKROSAFE Holdings (Pty) Ltd wishes all employers a safe return to work and a COVID-19-free workplace. For more information, guidance or support, please contact MAKROSAFE Holdings (Pty) LTD on 0861444 777.
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