Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces
Government Notice R1031 of 2020
Published in Government Gazette no. 43751 on 1 October 2020
- Assented to on 8 September 2020
Commenced on 1 October 2020
- [Up to date as at 1 October 2020]
I, Thembelani Waltermade Nxesi, the Minister of Employment and Labour, in terms of Regulation 4(10) of the Regulations, as published under Government Notice No. R.480 of 29 April 2020 and amended by Regulations published under Government Notices No. R. 608 of 28 May 2020, R.714 of 25 June 2020, R.763 of 12 July, R.846 of 31 July 2020, R.891 of 17 August 2020, R.999 of 18 September 2020 and R.1011 of 20 September 2020 in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002), hereby issue the Consolidated Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in certain workplaces as set out in the Schedule.
Mr TW Nxesi, MP
Minister of Employment and Labour
In these Directions, a word or expression bears the meaning assigned to it in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (Act No. 75 of 1997) or the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (Act No. 85 of 1993) and in the Regulations made by the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002), and published under Government Notice No. R. 480, in Government Gazette No. 43258 of 29 April 2020, as amended, and unless the context otherwise indicates-
"BCEA" means the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (Act No. 75 of 1997);
"COVID-19" means Coronavirus Disease 2019;
"Department" means the Department of Employment and Labour;
"Disaster Management Act" means the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002);
"health services" means
health care services, including reproductive health care and emergency medical treatment, contemplated in section 27 of the Constitution;
basic nutrition and basic health care services contemplated in section 28 (1) (c) of the Constitution;
medical treatment contemplated in section 35(2)(e) of the Constitution; and
municipal health services;
"health worker" includes-
a health care provider providing health services in terms of any law including-
Allied Health Professions Act, 1982 (Act No. 63 of 1982);
Health Professions Act, 1974 (Act No. 56 of 1974);
Nursing Act, 1978 (Act No. 50 of 1978);
Pharmacy Act, 1974 (Act No. 53 of 1974); and
Dental Technicians Act, 1979 (Act No. 19 of 1979);
any other person who is engaged in the provision of health services including those providing management and support services;
"inspector" means a person-
designated as an inspector in terms of section 28 of OHSA;
with the approval of the Minister responsible for Transport, a railway safety inspector appointed in terms of section 32 of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, 2002 (Act No. 16 of 2002) in respect of a "network" and a "railway operation" as those terms are defined in that Act;
law enforcement officers appointed with public health responsibilities by a local authority authorised in terms of direction 16(1);
"OHSA" means the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (Act No. 85 of 1993);
"PPE" means personal protective equipment;
"Regulations" means the Regulations made under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) in respect of the declaration of a state of national disaster under section 27(1) of the Act published under Government Notice No.R.303 in Government Gazette No. 43906 of 15 March 2020 as extended in terms of section 27(5)(c) of the Act;
"virus" means the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
"vulnerable employee" means any employee, as contemplated in the Department of Health Guidelines1 -
with known or disclosed health issues or comorbidities or any other condition that may place the employee at a higher risk of complications or death than other employees if infected with COVID-19; or
above the age of 60 years who is at a higher risk of complications or death if infected;
"worker" means any person who works in an employer’s workplace including an employee of the employer or contractor, a self-employed person or volunteer2; and
"workplace" means any premises or place where a person performs work.
1 Guidance on vulnerable employees and workplace accommodation in relation to COVID-19 - see the link in Annexure A.
2 The distinction between 'worker' and 'employee' in the Directions is used to ensure that all persons who in work in a workplace are protected and to locate the responsibility in respect of certain obligations imposed on the employer in respect of its employees such as an application for illness benefits or worker's compensation.
Subject to subdirection (2), these Directions apply to employers and workers in workplaces who are permitted to continue or commence operations under the Regulations.
This Direction does not apply to a workplace—
excluded from the OHSA in terms of section 1(3) of the OHSA3;
in respect of which another Minister has issued a direction under the Regulations dealing with health and safety of employees.
Subject to the employer’s obligations under the OHSA to conduct a risk assessment, employers with less than 10 employees need only apply the measures set out in direction 12 of these Directions.
These Directions apply for the duration of the national state of disaster, unless otherwise indicated.
3 Section 1(3) of OHSA excludes mines, mining areas or works in terms the Minerals Act, 1991 (Act No. 50 of 1991) and ships, boats or cranes in terms of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1951 (Act No. 57 of 1951).
3. Risk assessment and plans for protective measures
Every employer must—
undertake a risk assessment to give effect to the minimum measures required by these Directions, taking into account the specific circumstances of the workplace and the requirements of the OHSA Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents;
on the basis of that risk assessment, develop a plan outlining the protective measures in place for the phased return of its employees before opening;
consult on the risk assessment and plan with—
any representative trade union, as contemplated by section 14(1) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No. 66 of 1995); and
any health and safety committee established in terms of section 19 of the OHSA or, in the absence of such a committee, a health and safety representative designated in terms of section 17(1) of the OHSA or employee representative; and
make that plan available for inspection by an inspector and a person contemplated in subdirection (c).
The plan referred to in subdirection (1)(b) must include—
the date that the workplace will open and the hours of opening;
a list of employees permitted to return to work and those who are required to work from home;
the plan and timetable for the phased-in return of employees to the workplace;
identify the vulnerable employees for the purposes of direction 4(b);
ways of minimising the number of workers at the workplace at any one time as contemplated in direction 4(h);
the workplace protective measures required to be taken in terms of these Directions and any sectoral guideline to get the workplace COVID-19 ready;
the measures for the daily screening of employees and the screening of clients, contractors and visitors to the workplace; and
the details of the COVID-19 compliance officer appointed in terms of direction 4(f); and
a procedure to resolve any issue that may arise from the exercise by an employee of the right to refuse to work in the circumstances contemplated in direction 14(1).
The employer must phase the return of their employees to work in accordance with the plan.
4. Administrative measures
5. Social distancing measures
Every employer must arrange the workplace to ensure minimal contact between workers and, as far as practicable, ensure that there is a minimum of one and a half metres between workers while they are working, for example, at their workstations.
Depending on the circumstances of the workplace or the nature of the sector, the minimum distance may need to be greater, but reducing the number of workers present in the workplace at any time in terms of direction 4(h) may assist in achieving the required social distancing.
If it is not practicable to arrange work stations to be spaced at least one and a half metres apart, the employer must—
arrange physical barriers to be placed between work stations or erected on work stations to form a solid physical barrier between workers while they are working; or
when required, supply the employee, free of charge, with appropriate PPE based on a risk assessment of the working place.
Every employer must ensure that social distancing measures are implemented through supervision, both in the workplace and in the common areas outside the immediate workplace, through queue control or within the workplace, such as canteens and lavatories. These measures may include dividing the workforce into groups or staggering break-times to avoid the concentration of workers in common areas.
6. Symptom screening
Every employer must take measures—
to screen workers when they report for work in order to—
ascertain whether they have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 as per the current National Institute for Communicable Diseases definition13, namely a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing), or loss of smell or taste;
determine whether they suffer from any of the following additional symptoms: fever, body aches, redness of eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness; and
require workers to immediately inform the employer if they experience any of the symptoms in subdirection (1)(a) while at work.
Employers must comply with any guidelines issued by the the National Department of Health, in consultation with the Department, in respect of—
symptom screening and testing14; and
if required to do so, medical surveillance and testing.
If a worker presents with COVID-19-related symptoms, or advises the employer of these symptoms, the employer must—
not permit the worker to enter the workplace or report for work; or
if the worker is already at work immediately—
isolate the worker, provide the worker with a surgical mask and arrange for the worker to be transported to a public health facility15 in a manner that does not place other workers or members of the public at risk either to be self-isolated or to be referred for a medical examination or testing;
assess the risk of transmission, disinfect the area and the worker’s workstation, undertake contact tracing and refer those workers who may be at risk for screening and take any other appropriate measure to prevent possible transmission;
place its employee on paid sick leave in terms of section 22 of the BCEA or if the employee’s sick leave entitlement under the section is exhausted, make application for an illness benefit in terms of clause 4 of the Directive issued on 25 March 2020 on the COVID-19 Temporary Employer Relief Scheme under regulation 4(10) of the Regulations promulgated in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act;
take steps to ensure that the employee is not discriminated against on grounds of having tested positive for COVID-19 in terms of section 6 of the Employment Equity Act, 1998 (Act No. 55 of 1998); and
if there is evidence that the worker contracted COVID-19 arising out and in the course of employment, lodge a claim for compensation in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 (Act No. 130 of 1993), in accordance with Notice No. 193 published on 3 March 2020.16
If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and isolated in accordance with the Department of Health Guidelines,17 an employer may only allow a worker to return to work-
without requiring viral testing if the worker has completed the mandatory 10 days of isolation either from the onset of symptoms-
in mild cases of infection (not requiring hospitalisation for COVID-19); or
in moderate to severe cases of infection (requiring supplemental oxygen or hospitalisation) from the date of achieving clinical stability or earlier if the worker has gone a medical evaluation confirming fitness to work;
if the employer ensures that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker;
if the employer closely monitors the worker for symptoms on return to work; and
if the worker, on return to work, wears a surgical mask18 for 21 days from the date of diagnosis.
If a worker has been in contact in the workplace with another worker who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employer must assess that worker’s exposure in accordance with the Department of Health’s Guidelines19 to ascertain whether the exposure carries a high or low risk of transmission between the workers.
If there is a low risk exposure, the employer—
may permit the worker to continue working using a cloth mask complying with standard precautions; and
must monitor the worker’s symptoms for 10 days from the first contact.
If there is a high risk exposure—
a health worker must remain in quarantine for 7 days or with the agreement of the worker, 5 days;
all other workers must remain in quarantine for 10 days; and
the employer of that worker must place the worker on sick leave in accordance with subdirection (3)(b)(iii) for that period;
if the worker remains asymptomatic, no further testing is required prior to return to work, except in respect of health workers returning to work in less than 10 days.
13 Clinical management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease - see the link in Annexure A.
14 For more specific guidelines see Guidelines for symptom monitoring and management of workers for SARS-CoV-2 infection - see the link in Annexure A.
16 GN 387 GG 4350 of 23 July 2020 - see link in Annexure A.
17 Clinical management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease - see the link in Annexure A.
18 A surgical mask is Class A medical device (3-ply mask) categorised by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. Surgical masks must be fluid-resistant, disposable, and loose-fitting devices covering the mouth, nose and chin that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and the immediate environment. The surgical mask must protect the wearer's nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes and sprays that may contain germs and filter out large particles in the air. Surgical masks may also protect others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer.
19 The Guidelines for symptom monitoring and management of workers for CoV-2 infection and the Guideline: Clinical management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease - see the links in Annexure A.
7. Sanitizers, disinfectants and washing of hands
For the purposes of this direction-
a hand sanitizer must be one that has at least 70% alcohol content and is in accordance with the recommendations of the Department of Health20;
a surface disinfectant must be in accordance with the recommendations of the Department of Health21.
Every employer must, free of charge, ensure that—
there are sufficient quantities of hand sanitizer based on the number of workers or other persons who access the workplace at the entrance of, and in, the workplace which the workers or other persons are required to use; and
every employee who works away from the workplace, other than at home, must be provided with an adequate supply of hand sanitizer.
If a worker interacts with the public, the employer must provide the worker with sufficient supplies of hand-sanitizer at that worker’s workstation for both the worker and the person with whom the worker is interacting.
Every employer must take measures to ensure that—
all work surfaces and equipment are disinfected before work begins, regularly during the working period and after work ends;
all areas such as lavatories, common areas, door handles, shared electronic equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected; and
disable biometric systems or make them COVID-19-proof.
The employer must ensure that—
there are adequate facilities for the washing of hands with soap and clean water;
only paper towels are provided to dry hands after washing - the use of fabric toweling is prohibited;
the workers are required to wash their hands and sanitize their hands regularly while at work;
the workers interacting with the public are instructed to sanitize their hands between each interaction with a member of the public; and
surfaces that workers and members of the public come into contact with are routinely cleaned and disinfected.
20 See paragraph 6 of the National Department of Health: Practical Manual for Implementation of the National Infection Prevention and Control Strategic Framework, March 2020 (pp 17-20) - see the link in Annexure A
21 National Institute for Occupational Health: Cleaning and Decontamination of Workplaces in the Context of Covid-19 (10 June 2020) - see Annexure A.
8. Cloth masks
The main benefit of everyone wearing a cloth mask is to reduce the amount of virus containing droplets being transmitted by those with the infection and transmitted to others and to surfaces that others may touch. Since some infected persons may not have symptoms or may not know they are infected, the Department of Health requires that all persons wear cloth masks when in a public place.
For the reasons underlying the Department of Health’s requirement, every employer must—
provide each of its employees, free of charge, with a minimum of two cloth masks, which comply with the Recommended Guidelines Fabric Face Masks,22 for the employee to wear while at work and while commuting to and from work; and
require any other worker to wear masks in the workplace.
The number and replaceability of cloth masks that must be provided to an employee or required of other workers must be determined in accordance with any sectoral guideline and in the light of the employee or worker’s conditions of work, in particular, where these may result in the mask becoming wet or soiled.
Every employer must ensure that workers are informed, trained, instructed and supervised as to the correct use of cloth masks.
The general requirement for workers to wear masks does not derogate from the fact that, where a risk assessment indicates that specific personal protective equipment is required, those categories of workers must be provided with the accredited personal protective equipment in accordance with Department of Health guidelines.
22 Department of Trade, Industry and Competition: Recommended Guidelines Fabric Face Masks - see the link in Annexure A.
9. Measures in respect of workplaces to which public has access
The principal purpose of the measures contained in the following clause is to protect workers from being exposed to the virus through their interaction with the public and to protect members of the public from being exposed to virus through their interaction with workers or other persons present in such a workplace.
Depending on what is reasonably practicable, given the nature of the workplace contemplated in subdirection (1), every employer must—
determine the floor area of the workplace in square metres in order to determine the number of customers and workers that may be inside the workplace at any one time with adequate space available;
arrange the workplace to ensure that there is a distance at least one and a half metres between workers and members of the public or between members of the public;
put in place physical barriers at counters or provide workers with face shields or visors;
undertake symptom screening measures of persons other than its employees entering the workplace with due regard to available technology and any guidelines issued by the Department of Health;
display notices advising persons, other than employees entering the workplace, of the precautions they are required to observe while in the workplace;
require members of the public, including suppliers, to wear masks when inside their premises;
take steps to ensure that customers queuing inside or outside the workplace are able to maintain a distance of one and half metres from each other;
provide hand sanitizer for use by the public at the entrance to the workplace; and
assign an employee as a compliance officer to ensure that these measures are complied with and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and limitation of exposure to persons with COVID-19 are adhered to.
Every employer must—
keep the workplace well ventilated by natural or mechanical means to reduce the SARS-CoV-2 viral load;
where reasonably practicable, have an effective local extraction ventilation system with High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters that-
is technically assessed to be functioning effectively;
is regularly cleaned and maintained;
does not recirculate the air;
ensure that ventilation vents do not feed back in through open windows; and
ensure that ventilation filters are cleaned and replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions by a competent person.
11. Specific personal protective equipment
Every employer must check regularly on the websites of the National Department of Health23, National Institute of Communicable Diseases24 and the National Institute for Occupational Health25 whether any specialised PPE for COVID-19 is required or recommended in any guidelines given the nature of the workplace or the nature of a worker’s duties and the associated level of risk.
12. Small businesses
Employers with 10 employees or less must take the following measures:
If the employer is permitted to recommence operations under the Regulations, it must develop a basic plan for the phasing in the return of its employees taking into account those that are able to work remotely and those over the age of 60 years or who have comorbidities;
arrange the workplace to ensure that employees are at least one and half metres apart or, if not practicable, place physical barriers between them to prevent the possible transmission of the virus;
ensure that employees that present with the symptoms set out in direction 6(1)(a) are not permitted to work;
immediately contact the relevant provincial inspectorate26 for instruction and direct the employee to act in accordance with those instructions;
provide cloth masks or require an employee to wear some form of cloth covering over their mouth and nose while at work;
provide each employee with hand sanitizers, soap and clean water to wash their hands and disinfectants to disinfect their workstations;
ensure that each employee while at work washes with soap and sanitizes their hands;
ensure that their workstations are disinfected regularly; and
take any other measures indicated by a risk assessment of the workplace, including such measures as are appropriate in direction 9(2), if the public has access to the workplace.
26 See the list of telephone numbers for provincial inspectorates in Annexure C.
13. Worker obligations
In addition to the obligations of employees under the OHSA, every worker is obliged to comply with measures introduced by their employer, as required by these Directions.
14. Refusal to work due to exposure to COVID-19
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.
An employee who has refused to perform work in terms of subdirection (1) must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, notify the employer, either personally or through a health and safety representative, of the refusal and the reason for the refusal.
Every employer that has been notified in terms of this paragraph must-
after consultation with the compliance officer and the health and safety committee or, if there is no committee, a health and safety representative, endeavour to resolve any issue that may arise from the exercise of the right in terms of sub-direction (1);
if the matter cannot be resolved internally, notify an inspector27 of the issue within 24 hours and advise the employee and all other parties involved in resolving the issue that an inspector has been notified; and
comply with any prohibition issued by an inspector in terms of section 30 of the OHSA.
Subdirection (1) applies whether or not the person refusing to work has used or exhausted any other applicable external or internal procedure.
No person may benefit from, or promise any benefit to any person for, not exercising his or her right in terms of subdirection (1).
No person may threaten to take any action against a person because that person has exercised or intends to exercise the right in terms of subdirection (1).
No employee may be dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced or harassed for refusing to perform any work as contemplated in subdirection (1).
If there is a dispute as to whether subdirection (2) has been contravened, the employee may refer the dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration or an accredited bargaining council for conciliation and arbitration in accordance with the procedures contained in section 191 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No. 66 of 1995).
If the arbitrator, appointed as contemplated in subdirection (8), finds that the employer has contravened subdirection (2), the arbitrator may make any appropriate order contemplated in section 193, read with 194(3) or (4) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995.
27 Notification by contacting the relevant provincial inspectorate at the telephone numbers listed in Annexure C or at an address in http://www.labour.gov.za/Contacts/Provincial-offices
15. No deduction from employee’s remuneration
No employer may make any deduction from an employee's remuneration, or require or permit an employee to make any payment to the employer or any other person, in respect of anything which the employer is obliged to provide or to do in terms of these Directions.
16. Monitoring and enforcing Directions
To the extent that this Direction gives effect to the OSHA, the Minister responsible for Employment and Labour may authorise local authorities to perform certain inspectorate functions in terms of section 42(3) of the OSHA.
If a person fails to comply with this direction, an inspector may perform any of the functions in section 29 of the OHSA and exercise any of the powers listed in section 30 of the OHSA in order to monitor compliance with this Direction.
In so far as any contravention of these Directions constitutes a contravention of an obligation or prohibition under the OHSA, the offences and penalties provided for in section 38 of the OHSA apply.
An inspector may, for the purpose of promoting, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the OHSA, advise employees and employers of their rights and obligations in terms of these Directions in accordance with section 64 of the BCEA.
17. Sectoral protocols and guidelines
Sectoral or industry associations must, in the event of high health risks, develop sector-specific health protocols in consultation with the Department of Health to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the sector including providing forthose circumstances where a firm within the sector cannot stagger working hours or provide transport for its employees.
The Chief Inspector appointed in terms of section 27 the OHSA must facilitate the development of sector specific guidelines to supplement this Direction by engaging with the social partners through the offices of the National Economic Development and Labour Council.
The sector specific guidelines should include the matters referred to in Annexure B.
18. Amendment of footnotes Annexure A
The Minister may from time to time amend the footnotes and Annexure A and publish the amendments online without issuing an amended direction in order to update the links to any new applicable guideline or recommendation.
19. Withdrawal of Directions
The Directions issued in terms of regulation 10(8) of the Regulations made under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act and published under Government Notice No. 639 in Government Gazette No. 43400 of 4 June 2020 are hereby withdrawn.
20. Commencement of Directions
These Directions come into effect on the date of publication in the Government Gazette.