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COVID19: Revised and Consolidated Directions issued by the Department of Employment and Labour in terms of the Disaster Management Act (4 June 2020)

As many people returned to work this month under Level 3 of Lockdown, the Department of Employment and Labour issued Revised and Consolidated Directives for Employees and Employers in terms of COVID-19 Safety in the workplace.

This direction replaces the Original Labour Document which was published on 29 April 2020.

Most important changes between the 29 April directions and the 4 June Directions, in line largely with new guidance published by the Department of Health:

  1. Originally the Directions specifically excluded facilities in which medical and health care services are performed – this exclusion has now been removed, so the directives can be assumed to apply to all health facilities.
  2. There are now specific requirements included for the development and implementation of a workplace plan, based on a risk-assessment for the businesses opening. (The workplace plan is a requirement in terms of Level 3 and 4 Lockdown Regulations)
  3. All workplaces must take special measures to mitigate the risk of COVID -19 for vulnerable employees in accordance with the Department of Health’s Guidelines to facilitate their safe return to work or their working from home
  4. Where an employee is identified as COVID-19 positive, workplaces must determine the need to temporarily close the affected work area for decontamination using an incident -based risk assessment with due regard to the Department of Health’s Guideline.
  5. The Directions appropriately and in line with National Clinical Guidelines NO Longer require an infected employee to test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed back to work, if they have self-isolated for 14 days – however a medical evaluation of fitness to return to work is still required in the case of moderate to severe disease.
  6. Very important is the additional section which permits that an employee may refuse to perform any work if circumstances arise which with reasonable justification appear to that employee or to a health and safety representative to pose an imminent and serious risk of their exposure to COVID-19 (sections 48 to 56)  

Specifically regarding infected employees to return to work:

If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID -19 and isolated in accordance with the Department of Health Guidelines, an employer may only allow a worker to return to work on the following conditions:

28.1 The worker has completed the mandatory 14 days of self -isolation;
28.2 the worker has undergone a medical evaluation confirming fitness to work if the worker had moderate or severe illness;
28.3 the employer ensures that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker;
28.4 the employer closely monitors the worker for symptoms on return to work; and
28.5 the worker wears a surgical mask for 21 days from the date of diagnosis.

29. If a worker has been in contact in the workplace with another worker who has been diagnosed with COVI D -19, the employer must assess that worker’s exposure in accordance with the Department of Health’s Guidelines to ascertain whether the exposure carries a high or low risk of transmission between the workers.

30. If there is a low risk of exposure, the employer –
30.1 may permit the worker to continue working using a cloth mask complying with standard precautions; and
30.2 must monitor the worker’s symptoms for 14 days from the first contact.

31. If there is a high risk of exposure-
31.1 the worker must remain in quarantine for 14 days; and
31.2 the employer of that worker must place the worker on sick leave in accordance with clause 27.3 for that period.

SAMA Recommends that our Doctors familiarise themselves with the Labour Directives, as well as the contents of the multiple Department of Health Guidelines which are referenced, namely:

  • Guidance on vulnerable employees and workplace accommodation in relation to COViD-19 (25 May 2020)
  • Guidance note for workplaces in the event of identification of a COVID -19 positive employee (19 May 2020)
  •  Clinical management of suspected or confirmed COVID -19 disease (18 May 2020)
  •  Guidelines for symptom monitoring and management of essential workers for COVID-19 related infection (19 May 2020)
  • Department of Health: How to use mask cloth

These are all available on SAMA’s COVID-19 Page on the SAMA Website – Click on “Doctor Resources, Guidelines and Protocols” – https://www.samedical.org/covid-19/main

Questions? Please contact us through covid19@samedical.org.

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