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In terms of the COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures of the Disaster Management Act, employers are required to have protocols for when employees present, or inform the employer of symptoms for COVID-19.
The employer is required to implement a process for the daily monitoring of symptoms. This needs to occur daily, prior to employees being permitted to work in order to ascertain whether they have any of the observable symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. Employees are required, by law, to report whether they suffer from any of the additional COVID-19 symptoms, such as; body aches, loss of smell, loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness and, they are required by law, to immediately inform the employer if they experience any of the aforementioned symptoms while working, or even before attending at the workplace upon screening, before reporting for duty.
If an employee presents with or informs the employer of the existence of symptoms of COVID-19, they must not be permitted to enter the workplace or to report for work. If an employee, while at work, presents with or informs the employer of the existence of symptoms linked to COVID-19, then they must immediately be isolated, provided with a surgical mask and arrangements made for them to be transported for self-isolation, or for the purposes of a medical examination or testing.
The employee’s workstation and areas that he/she could have been in contact with, will need to be disinfected. The extent of cleaning either where there is a suspected case, or where an employee has tested positive, will depend on the number of people that could have been infected and the extent to which the employee moved around the workplace. If the employee ‘passed through’ the workplace without touching anything and without spending much time in face-to-face communication with other employees, then simple cleaning measures are appropriate. However, if they spent a lot of time in the workplace, touched and handled many objects and surfaces and had close contact with many people, then more comprehensive cleaning of the environment would be necessary. If an employee tests positive, all areas where the employee worked or visited in the work site should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and wiped down with a diluted bleach solution or a 70% alcohol solution.
Apart from attending to the affected employee and disinfecting the workplace, the employer is also obligated to conduct an assessment or a workplace investigation, in order to:
The employer needs to keep records of each case investigated for COVID-19, however, the Department of Health, the Department of Employment and Labour, as well as the NICD need to be informed only where there have been positive cases.
Where an employee has exhibited or reported symptoms associated with the corona virus, the employer is not obliged to test everyone in the business, but in the event that an employee tests positive, fellow employees and members of the public who may be at risk, should be informed and referred for testing or self-quarantine, depending on whether they have symptoms or not and on whether they are vulnerable employees or have comorbidities or not. In order to do this, the employer will need to have protocols in place for tracking and tracing all persons who may have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.
The employer is not compelled to cover the cost of any private or public testing fees incurred.
Employees who have tested positive as well as those employees who are under quarantine or in self-isolation need to be supported and measures need to be in place to ensure they are not discriminated against.
Although all cases and information regarding employees who have had exposure or who have tested positive to the virus need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity, employees need to be aware that where one has tested positive for COVID-19, information may be shared in order to protect public health and as is required for legislative reporting purposes.
The assessment of exposure and recommended actions will be as follows:
You may access more information on these directives from: