On 29 April 2020, new Regulations were published in terms of the Disaster Management Act which replaced previous lockdown regulations and set out the restrictions that will be imposed during Alert Level 4. These Regulations permit more categories of business to resume operations, subject to the establishment of, and compliance with, strict health protocols and social distancing measures in the workplace. Here are 5 factors that employers should take note of in preparing for Alert Level 4:
1. Movement of persons
- Both essential service employees and permitted service employees may travel between their place of residence and work.
- Essential service and permitted service employers must issue their employees with a permit corresponding with Form 2, Annexure A of the Regulations.
- Essential service and permitted service employees, in possession of a permit, are allowed to travel between provinces, metropolitan areas and districts if they have to cross these borders to commute to work on a daily basis.
- All persons are confined to their residences between the hours of 20:00 and 05:00, except where a person has been granted a permit to perform an essential or permitted service or is attending to a security or medical emergency.
2. Workplace plan
- Before resuming business operations, all permitted industries, businesses and entities must establish and implement a workplace plan.
- The workplace plan must include details of the plan for the gradual return to work of employees; details of the health and social distancing measures that will be implemented at work-stations, canteens and bathroom facilities; and the appointment of a COVID-19 compliance officer to oversee the implementation of the workplace plan.
- Employers with over 500 employees must include details of the establishment and implementation of testing facilities in their workplace plan.
3. Employees in the workplace
- More employees will be allowed to return to work so employers are now required to adopt minimum measures to reduce the risk of infection at the workplace and minimise the spread of the virus.
- Measures must include: enabling employees who are able to do so to work from home and minimising face-to-face meetings.
- ‘Special measures’ must be put in place for identified employees with comorbidities (that is, existing medical conditions) and employees above the age of 60.
- Employers whose employees come into contact with members of the public in the course of their duties are required to provide these employees with cloth masks which must be worn.
4. The business premises
- Employers must measure the area of their premises in square meters and determine the maximum allowable number of persons on the premises at any given time, in compliance with the social distancing requirements;
- Employers must appoint an employee as a COVID-19 compliance officer who will be responsible for ensuring:
- compliance with the workplace plan;
- that the maximum number of employees and customers is not exceeded;
- that social distancing of 1.5 metres between each person is observed both inside and outside of the workplace;
- that hand sanitizer is provided at the entrance and exit to the workplace for use by both employees and customers.
- Employers must use the COVID-19 Directive on Health and Safety in the Workplace, published by the Minister of Employment and Labour on 29 April 2020, as a guide on what measures to implement at the workplace.
5. Specific requirements for certain sectors
- Certain sectors that have been allowed to resume operations are subject to special provisions. For example, retail stores that are permitted to operate are prohibited from selling goods other than those specified in Table 1, Part E of the Regulations.
- Table 1 also provides for the percentage of operation permitted to operate and imposes a limitation on operating times for certain sectors. For example, other than the particular manufacturing industries listed in Part C of Table 1, all other manufacturers may only scale up to 30% of their employees and are subject to strict health protocols. Restaurants may only operate and deliver food between 09:00 and 19:00.