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A coronavirus infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience:

  • Fever

  • Acute respiratory infection (shortness of breath or cough)

Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risks, or minimise the risks. The type of control measure required depends on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace, and may include:

  • providing adequate facilities or products (such as hand sanitiser) to allow employees to maintain good hygiene practices

  • regularly cleaning their hands with soap and water (minimum 20 seconds) or an alcohol-based hand rub. If hands are visibly dirty wash them with soap and water

  • always washing hands with soap and water before eating and after visiting the toilet

  • covering their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and disposing of used tissues immediately

  • avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

  • seeing a health care professional if they are unwell, and staying away from the workplace and other public places

Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation 85 of 1993:

8. General duties of employers to their employees

  • Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of his employees.

  • Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under sub-section (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular

  1. a provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health,

  2. taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment;

  3. making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances;

  4. establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health and safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken with respect to such work, article, substance, plant and machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures;

  5. providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;

  6. as far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken;

  7. taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used;

  8. enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;

  9. ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented; and

  10. causing all employees to be informed regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37(1)(b).

Article by William van Greunen

OHS Consultant

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