As of Monday, 1 June, millions of South Africans are able to return to their workplaces after Government eased the lockdown restrictions to level 3. This allowed for all manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, wholesalers, retailers, media services and ICT businesses to reopen their doors.
Many companies are encouraging their employees to continue working from home, kicking off what could become a permanent trend. However, employees and business owners who choose to go back to the office will face strict anti-virus controls to curb the spread of the pandemic.
According to Alert Level 3 Regulations, if there are more than 100 employees, businesses and institutions must take proactive steps to limit the number of people on the premises. Aside from work-from-home arrangements, these can include flexible working hours, job rotations, and shift patterns. Employees must also keep a distance of 1.5 metres between workstations.
Regardless of size, all companies, organisations, and industries must appoint a Covid-19 Compliance Officer to measure and manage the risks in the workplace. The Compliance Officer, whose name is to be displayed in a visible area, is responsible for ensuring that employees adhere to the COVID-19 prevention measures, health and hygiene protocols, and the workplace plan.
“Companies will need to put in place sanitary and social distancing measures and facilities; they will need to screen workers on arrival each day, quarantine those who may be infected and make arrangements for them to be tested,” President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his latest address.
This means when employees report for work, the workplace should be equipped to prevent and deal with transmissions. Workers must be screened for “observable” symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath. This can be done using a fever screening solution such as thermal cameras or a handheld scanner.
Face-to-face meetings should be avoided whenever possible. Employees who need to communicate with co-workers, clients, or customers can do so via conference calling on software such as Microsoft Teams.
Employees must wear a face mask at all times and should regularly sanitise their hands using a sanitiser at the entrance to the building, provided by the employer. All work surfaces including keyboards, touch screens, printers, desks, phone systems, fridges, and microwaves must be disinfected before the office opens and frequently throughout the day.
President Ramaphosa did not indicate when levels 2 or 1 are set to come into effect, apart from saying that “in time”, areas with low infections could be moving further from the current restrictions. Under Alert Level 3, life seems almost back to normal, but as the number of infections nears the 30,000 mark, remote working will undoubtedly be the first choice for employees.