By: Natasha Archary
Compliance issues pose a huge challenge to the Department of Employment and Labour. Last month, inspections carried out saw just 60% of organizations, or two of five, meeting compliance regulations.
Which does not bode well for the country, with more companies now operating under the less strict rules under Level 3. What’s more is that Government and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were rated at 50% compliant.
Business as usual
What many fail to understand is that the COVID-19 did not miraculously disappear when the President declared the country moves to Level 3 lockdown in June. If anything, given the rate at which the virus is spreading in the country, it is rather concerning, especially with organizations, stores, places of worship where people are queuing.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is clear in that organizations that are operating as per “normal” from June (as normal as can be expected considering the circumstances) are to abide by the strict obligations to protect their employees and customers.
There are strict directives by the Department of Employment and Labour that employers need to provide to maintain a reasonably safe working environment that limits risks to its employees. And steps that have to be taken to eliminate the potential hazards around contracting or possible spreading of the COVID-19 virus.
Social distancing measures
It will be difficult for employers to keep to the advised social distancing parameters for operating but this is not something to be taken lightly. Designated markings of the advised 1.5 meters between employees must be observed.
Depending on the nature of the business, the distance between staff may need to be increased. In open-plan settings, it would be advised that cubicles or transparent barriers are put in place to form a solid barrier between employees.
Apart from observing social distancing, the directives state that the employer has to take it upon themselves to screen all their employees when they report to work. Temperature checks are essential as are all observable symptoms linked to COVID-19. These include a temperature higher than 37, a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, red eyes, difficulty breathing.
Employers will also need to ask the employees to report, as required by law, if they have any of the following symptoms: body aches, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, weakness, tiredness, loss of smell, loss of taste.
Employees should also disclose if they have any suspicions that they may have come in contact with someone positive with the virus.
According to the directives, every employer is responsible for the costs of hand sanitizers at the entrance of the workplace and accessible in the work environment should an employee need it. This is especially so for employees who are in direct contact with the public.
Sanitizers need to, by law contain at least 70% alcohol, as stipulated with the Department of Health’s recommendations. Access of sanitizers need to be available for the employee’s workstation, office, boardroom or communal areas.
The employer is also responsible to provide each of its employees, free of charge, with two cloth masks, which must comply with the guidelines issued by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition.
The standard is a 3 layered fabric mask that is breathable. The employer needs to also ensure the workplace is sufficiently ventilated.
Please ensure you have read the full set of directives so you understand the repercussions which may result in penalties or criminal prosecution for lack of adherence.