17 March 2020: Teboho Thejane the Departmental Spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Labour released the following:
The Department of Employment and Labour has appealed to employers to use the prescriptions of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act of 1993 in governing workplaces in relation to Coronavirus Disease 2019 COVID–19.
The OHS read with the Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations requires the employer to provide and
maintain as far as is reasonably practicable a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees.
“Section 8(2)(b) requires steps such as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard before resorting to personal protective equipment (PPE). However, in the case of COVID–19, a combination of controls is required, although the main principle is to follow the
hierarchy of controls.
“However, before the implementation of control measures, current risk assessments need to be reviewed and updated, taking into account the new hazards posed by exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. This is in accordance with Section 8 (2) (d) of the OHS Act.
The Department wishes to appeal to employers who have not prepared for pandemic events to prepare themselves and their workers as far in advance as possible of potentially worsening outbreak conditions. The Department advises employers to “go back to basics; by conducting hazard identification and risk assessment to determine the level of risk exposure and communicate to all workers.