Commentary on the latest COVID-19 Direction for workplaces – 1 October 2020
The latest Direction of COVID-19 for workplaces have been issued with the effective date 1 October 2020. In support to these directions guidelines were issued and for the sake of this brief I am only including the Guideline on the submission of COVID-19 related health data from workplaces.
Critical changes in the Direction:
The initial Direction only required businesses over 500 employees to submit a COVID-19 plan to the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL). The latest direction now requires every business with greater than 50 employees at a workplace to issue the following information to the DEL applicable Provisional Chief Inspector via email:
COVID-19 Risk Assessment
COVID-19 Compliance Officer signed appointment
Record of communication of points above with Unions / Occupational Health and Safety Committee or directly with employees
The Direction does not say greater than 50 employees in the business but specify a workplace. A workplace is defined in the Direction as: “workplace means any premises or place where a person performs work.” Therefore, if your business employs more than 50 people but they work at different workplaces / premises and each workplace is less than 50 employees at any given time you do not have to submit the information above to the DEL.
This information shall be submitted to the DEL within 21 days starting 1 October 2020.
Take note: The information above with all the records must still be available at each workplace for an inspector to inspect at any given time no matter the number of people at the workplace.
The Minister of DEL may at any given time now request the “Local Authorities” to assist with inspections. The Chief Inspector did however say before this comes into effect a MOU will be signed between the departments and this will be made public. Therefore, no local authority may inspect your workplace until such time as an MOU is signed and made public. The DEL have appointed 500 inspectors to assist with COVID-19 inspections to ensure compliance.
Sectorial guidelines will be issued where an economical sector have specific addisional guidelines to follow. Only 2 sectorial guidelines have been published to date:
Work from home (Tele-working) guidelines is drafted and will be issued shortly. However, the business risk assessment must incorporate the work from home scenario and associated risks for example ergonomics and how it is addressed.
A new HR procedure is required, or existing HR procedures need to be reviewed to cover “refusal to work. The procedure must take the following aspects into account:
An employee may refuse to perform work if circumstances arise which with reasonable justification appear to pose an imminent and serious risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The employee must as soon as possible notify the employer of the risk.
Once notification is received as per point b the employer must discuss the concern with the COVID-19 compliance officer and the OHS Committee or at least a SHE Rep to resolve the problem.
If the concern cannot be resolved internally notify the inspector of the concern within 24 hours and advice all involved parties an inspector have been notified.
People may not be threatened with action against them for refusing to work and each case shall be investigated.
No employee may be dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced, or harassed for refusing to perform work where an exposure risk has been identified and the employee refused to work.
Disputes will be referred to the CCMA or an accredited bargaining council.
Submission of COVID-19 related health data from workplaces to the NIOH include:
Submission process via the Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS) portal:
Those employers submitting data via the OHSS will no longer be required to submit the same data to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Director General: Health as has been the practice to date.
The business registers on the OHSS by accessing the portal link directly and completing the required business detail: https://ohss.nioh.ac.za/
The business details will be verified, and registration will be confirmed.
The OHSS administrator generates a unique ID for the business that the business will use to login to the system to submit data.
In the event that an employer does not currently use electronic systems, their data can be submitted by using a pre-packaged CSV data file. The excel spreadsheets for collection of screening data, vulnerability data, testing and return to work data can be obtained by contacting the NIOH at OHSworkplace@nioh.ac.za.
The Guideline also provide templates in table format however the csv is recommended to ensure the NIOH can upload the data easily and directly.
POPIA requirements will be met by NIOH and the employer must ensure it complies with the act as well:
NIOH will be accountable for processing and storing personal information of subjects in a responsible, legal and appropriate manner.
All employees must be made aware by the employer that their information is being submitted to NIOH and obtain the necessary approval.
The following data categories for submission is discussed in the Guidelines:
Vulnerable Worker Data - This once off submission is submitted when collected by the workplace, and any subsequent occasion when new appointments are made, or an employee’s status requires updating.
Daily Symptom Screening Data – The data must be submitted on a weekly basis should there be symptomatic workers recorded during the calendar week. The submissions should occur before Tuesday for the previous calendar week commencing on Sunday.
COVID-19 Testing Data - This submission occurs only when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and should be submitted on a weekly basis should there be positive workers identified during the calendar week.
High exposure risk Workplace Contact-Tracing - The total numbers of employees placed in quarantine as a result of the high-risk exposure should be submitted on a weekly basis should there be positive worker/s identified during the calendar week.
Post infection outcome and Return to Work Data - This data must be submitted once only when the employee returns to work.
The DEL inspections currently indicates 58% compliance against the COVID-19 Directives and Guidelines, in a combined look at all sectors with the exclusion of Gov workplaces.
Do you know if your business is at risk of non-compliance?
Visit the Elint online store (https://www.elint.co.za/online-store) to download a free copy of the Elint compliance checklist to verify your business COVID-19 compliance status. We all need to work together to ensure you, your employees, customers, and the public are safe and protected against a possible second wave and lockdown which may just result in your business suicide.
Visit the Elint online store (https://www.elint.co.za/online-store) for all the COVID-19 documentation you may need:
COVID-19 Management Plan (include the risk assessment template from NIOH)
COVID-19 Policy – free copy
COVID-19 Reopening business plan for less than 10 employees
COVID-19 Compliance Checklist – free copy
Should you need any assistance please contact Elint via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Roeleen on 0824677121.
“Lets spread the message not the virus” - Chief Inspector Tibo Szana