At the end of 2019, no one had expected or ever imagined how life would change and how the world had to adapt to what has been coined the “new normal”. We as South Africans witnessed how the rapid spread of the virus made its way to our continent with the arrival of patient 1. From there, life as we knew it changed dramatically. 

At the start of April 2020, the first lock-down was implemented along with a multitude of new regulations due to the fact that South Africa declared the situation a state of disaster. So, what did it all entails? Firstly, it was required that all businesses would shut down or close for 2 weeks, excluding essential services. The definition of essential services is as follows; “Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies.” 

Social distancing was also a new term that was created during this time, which meant – “the physical distance maintained between individuals in social contexts”. It was required that within any public space each person should remain 2 meters from one another. At that time, it was stipulated that the nation should not leave their homes except for purchasing essential goods. A curfew was established and for the time many followed and abided the rules. Most were unsure about what the future held for the entire world, and many were worried about the unknown outcome. Wearing masks became a new fashion accessory, isolating yourself slowly became a familiar practice, a shortage of toiletries within shops was normal and everyone develop a great banana bread recipe during this time!

Fast forward to numerous lockdowns, changes in levels of disaster along with the thought-out rules that accompanied the different stages to where we are now. Today, many of those harsh rules have faded away and it seems like a distant, surreal dream. It was only last week that the regulations for wearing masks have been removed. 

Let’s take a look at the different levels of disaster: 

Level 5:

Only essential services are permitted.

Transport restrictions included, bus services, taxi services, e-hailing and private motor vehicles may operate at limited times of the day, with limitations on vehicle capacity and stringent hygiene requirements. A person was permitted to have a legal permit to work or drive around during this time for work purposes specifically. 

Movement restriction stipulated that no inter-provincial movement of people, except for transportation of goods and under exceptional circumstances (e.g., funerals). 

Level 4 – 1 May 2020:

Sectors that opened during this time included the following: 

  • All financial and professional services
  • Fibre optic and IT services 
  • Food retail stores – may sell full line products within existing stock
  • Formal waste recycling
  • Global business services for export markets 
  • Postal and telecommunications 
  • Mining – Open cast mines at 100% capacity and all other mines at 50%
  • Forestry, pulp & paper
  • All agriculture

Public transport restrictions moved to operate at all times of the day, with limitations on vehicle capacity and stringent hygiene requirements.

Movement restrictions implemented the following:

  • Every person is confined to his or her place of birth from 8 PM – 5 AM
  • No local or inter-provincial movement of people, except. 
  • Those returning for alert level 4 operations
  • Once-off return home
  • To perform an essential or permitted service
  • Obtain service allowed to operate
  • Buy permitted goods
  • Move children, as allowed
  • Transportation of goods
  • Exceptional circumstances
  • Walking, jogging and cycling are allowed between 6 AM – 9 AM within 5KM of your residence and not in a group.
  • Wearing a mask in public is compulsory.

Level 3:

More sectors opened in level 3, which included:

  • Take away restaurants and online delivery
  • Liquor retail within restricted hours 
  • Clothing retail – Clothing and textiles manufacturing at 50% capacity
  • Books and educational products
  • Licensing and permitting services
  • E-commerce and delivery services
  • Cement and steel and Machinery and equipment
  • SANRAL construction and maintenance 
  • Transnet at 100%
  • Global business services

Transport restrictions remained the same as level 4 and movement restrictions stated non-provincial movement of people, except for transportation of goods and under exceptional circumstances. 

Level 2:

All of the following sectors are open: 

  • All retail
  • Construction
  • Domestic work and cleaning services
  • All other manufacturing 
  • All government services 
  • All mining sectors
  • Informal waste pickers
  • Installation, repairs, and maintenance 

Domestic air travel restored. Car rental service restored. 

Movement between provinces at Level 1 and 2 restrictions.

Level 1:

All sectors are open for business, all modes of transport, with stringent hygiene conditions in place and all movement restrictions removed.

Current OHSA Regulations 

The Covid-19 regulations became a new section within the act when sectors were granted permission to open their doors. However, the regulations have changed over the course of the last 2 years. 

Risk Assessment and Plan

Under the OHSA and the HBA Regulations, every employer should undertake a risk assessment to give the effect of its obligations and on the basis of the risk assessment develop or amend its existing plan. The existing plans must indicate any measurements to be implemented with respect to the vaccination of employees. Taking into account the intervals between vaccinations to which the worker has been fully vaccinated. The plan must also consult any representative trade union as contemplated by section 14(1) of the LRA. 

Contents of a risk assessment plan

The risk assessment plan must include the identification of the employees contemplated in a paragraph—the reporting of any symptoms by employees and isolation of employees who are diagnosed with the virus. The workplace protective measures should also be included in the risk assessment which may include personal protective equipment and ventilation of the workspace. 

The risk assessment plan with regards to section 5 must include social distancing measurements that include minimising the number of workers in the workplace through rotation, shifts, and remote working arrangements. PPE measure is contemplated in section 11 of the Act. Personal hygiene measures should be in place. The employer is required to make sure to reduce the risk of infection, serious illness, or death, this could be achieved by reducing the numbers and the duration of meetings in a smaller room. 

Administrative Measures

Notification of workers

The employee must provide information that raises awareness in any form or manner to its workers, this includes informing the employees of the danger of the virus, how it is transmitted, how to prevent infection, social distancing etc. The information provided may also include the symptoms associated with Covid-19 and the vaccine.  

Symptom reporting by workers

The employer is required to determine the vaccination status of their workers and it is required by the employee to immediately inform their employer if they experience the Covid-19 symptoms. If the employee informs the employer of their symptoms, the employer may require the employee to take a Covid test before returning to work. This does not apply to a worker that has received the vaccine and showcases symptoms after one or three days. 

Isolation of workers

Employees who have been diagnosed and are symptomatic must inform their employer and isolate themselves for the recommended period as stated by the National Department of Health. It is also required that the employer must grant the employee paid sick leave which they are entitled to under section 22 or if the employees’ sick leave is exhausted, apply for an illness benefit in terms of section 20 under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 2001. 

The employer is also required to prevent any discrimination on the ground of having tested positive and if the employee contracted the virus at work, they must lodge a claim for compensation in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993. 

Vaccination of Employees

It is the responsibility of the employer to notify the employee if it is required to receive the vaccination and must counsel the employee on the issue related to vaccines in section 7 (10(c), The employee may ask to consult a health and safety representative to enquire more information about the vaccine. And the employer is required to do so if requested. And finally, the employer must provide administrative support to the employee to register and access their Covid-19 vaccination certificates on the EVDS Portal. 

The employer may require the employee to disclose their vaccination status and produce a vaccination certificate. If the employee suffers from any effect of the vaccine and is rendered unable to work, the employer must ask for a medical certificate and give the employee paid time off from work to recover. 

The employee is permitted to refuse to get the vaccine however the employer may counsel the employee and provide guidance from a health and safety representative. Take steps to reasonably accommodate the employee’s decision to do so.  

So much has changed over the last few years and the majority of the heavy restrictions have been lifted. It is often said that there is no “back to normal”, which is true, the entire world has changed forever since the spread of Covid-19. However, humanity has adapted to our new circumstances, and we have come to know and embrace our new routine. The one thing that is always constant is change. 

As humanity has adapted, we have adapted and improved as well to ensure the safety of all at the workplace to accommodate all the changes over the years. Let us assist you with all your health and safety requirements!  

Care, Integrity, Consistency

Simple takes someone who is able to wade through the complicated and make sense of it all. That someone is us at Cairnmead. Because we know that, no matter how complex the challenge, it’s the simplicity of the outcome that matters.

Contact us to find out more:

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email: christof@cairnmead.co.za

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