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What Your Covid-Compliant Workplace Should Look Like

What Your Covid-Compliant Workplace Should Look Like

With some 1.5 million South Africans returning to work this week, businesses are required to comply with strict new health and safety regulations to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Businesses reopening must put these measures in place before restarting work, Minister of Labour Thulas Nxesi said during a briefing. Failure to do so could result in criminal prosecution.


The Health Minister Zweli Mkhize voiced concerns that South Africans all over are suffering from "pandemic fatigue" and loosening their personal non-pharmaceutical interventions (masks, sanitisers, distancing) as the economy is forced to reopen.

He admitted, however, that while government is recruiting more "covid officers", there are currently only 170 inspectors in the field.

Hospitals all around SA - but particularly in Western Cape and Gauteng - are filling up and running out of Covid resources. Even having medical insurance does not guarantee patients a bed, so an overwhelmed system will affect absolutely everyone.


During the first phase of lockdown, inspectors shut down (or partially closed) nine businesses a day for violations.


Here’s what other new regulations are required from businesses:

1. Distancing

All customers and employees must maintain a distance of one and a half metres from each other at all times. Work stations must be to be spaced at least one and a half metres apart – and if that isn’t possible, “solid, physical barriers” must be placed between workstations. In stores, if it isn’t possible to maintain one and half metres, workers must get a face shield or visor, or physical barriers must be installed.

Companies must determine how big their floor space is in square metres, and then determine how many clients and employees can be inside at any time.

Businesses must implement queue control - and maintain physical distancing in its canteens and lavatories. “These measures may include dividing the workforce into groups or staggering break-times to avoid the concentration of workers in common areas.”

2. Covid compliance official

Businesses need to assign an employee as a “compliance official”. He or she needs to ensure that the company complies with the new regulations.
In shops, the name of the official must be displayed prominently in the store.

3. Hand sanitiser

There must be hand sanitiser (with at least 70% alcohol content) for customers and employees at the entrance to the premises.

If a worker interacts with the public, the worker must have sufficient supplies of hand-sanitiser at his or her workstation for both the worker and clients. Workers must sanitise their hands between each interaction with the public.

Workers must wash, or sanitise, their hands regularly while at work.

4. Cleaning and disinfecting

All work surfaces and equipment must be disinfected before work begins, regularly during the day and after work ends, with a quality product - not all disinfectants are created equal, and in today's climate you are getting what you pay for! Toilets, common areas, door handles and shared electronic equipment must be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

5. No fabric towels

There must be adequate facilities for the washing of hands with soap and clean water, but fabric towels are prohibited - paper towels must be used.

5. Fingerprint biometric systems adjustment

Companies must disable their biometric systems or make them “Covid-19-proof”.

6. Masks

Everyone on the premises – including suppliers – must wear masks at all time. A minimum of two cloth masks must be provided to each employees, free of charge. One can be used on the commute to and from work, the other while at the workplace. An employer must ensure that these masks are washed, dried, and ironed.

Workers must also be educated about how to correctly use cloth masks - noses and mouths covered!

Ultimately, the employer remains responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of personal protective equipment, the regulations say. Workers who are at greater risk must be provided with the "appropriate" personal protective equipment (PPE), for example N95 or N97 masks. These PPE must be free.

Many companies are assisting corporates to become compliant, as well as to fulfil a CSR mandate, such as African Potential Foundation heading up the #HeroesWearMasks campaign.

7. Ventilation

Every workplace must be well ventilated to reduce the viral load.  Air conditioners must be avoided as well as any mechanisms that circulate air, unless approved filters can be installed.  An open window works just as well.  
If "reasonably practicable", an extraction ventilation system must  be used.

8. Sick employees

Companies are required to inform employees that if they are sick or have symptoms associated with the Covid–19 they must not come to work and that they will get paid sick leave.

At the start of their shifts, all workers must be screened for “observable” symptoms associated with Covid-19: fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath. Workers must also report whether they have body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness. If they have these symptoms, they must inform their employer. Not doing so is illegal.

The company mustn’t allow workers with symptoms to enter the workplace. Sick workers must be isolated, and should receive a FFP1 surgical mask. The company must then arrange for the worker to be safely transported to be self-isolated, or for a medical examination or testing. The company must ensure that the worker is tested, and company must then disinfect the area and the worker’s workstation.

If Covid-19 is diagnosed, it must be reported to the Department of Health as well as the Department of Employment and Labour, and the company must investigate how the worker was infected.

Workers with Covid-like symptoms can only return to work if they have been tested negative for Covid-19.

Companies are also obliged to raise awareness via leaflets and notices about the dangers of the virus, the manner of its transmission, the measures to prevent transmission such as personal hygiene, social distancing, use of masks, cough etiquette and where to go for screening or testing.

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9. Risk assessment and policy

Large companies (with more than 500 employees) must submit a risk assessment and written policy about how the health and safety of its employees will be protected against Covid-19. All workers must be notified about the document. A manager must be appointed to address employee concerns and to keep them informed.

10. For small businesses (with fewer than 10 staff)

Employees must stay at least one and half metres apart or, if not practicable, physical barriers must be placed between them.

If a worker has Covid-19 symptoms, they must not be allowed to work, and the employer must call the Covid-19 hotline on 0800 02 9999 for instruction.

Small companies must provide cloth masks or require an employee to wear some form of cloth covering over their mouth and nose while at work.

All employees must be provided with hand sanitisers, soap and clean water to wash their hands, and disinfectants to sanitise their workstations.

All employees must wash their hands with soap, and ensure that their workstations are disinfected regularly.

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  • Georgina Roberts
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