- Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS)
- Return to Work
- When an employee tests positive
Yes, and the employer must provide the permits to an employee which should meet the requirement of the level 4 regulatory conditions in accordance with regulation “permit to perform an essential or permitted service” in terms of regulations issued in the Disasters Management Act. A law enforcement agent may request this permit at any time.
In addition to the COVID-19 hazard, there may be multiple activities that one has to consider when conducting a risk assessment.
The threat or hazard is SARS-CoV-2, however different jobs may have different activities and possibly multiple exposures, and thus have different risk profiles for each hazard. Therefore, the risk assessment must assess each activity and exposure as it may have a multiplicative or additive effect on the health of workers.
In addition, some tasks may involve more touching of surfaces and may increase breathing rates putting workers at additional risk.
Please note that no control measure reduces risk 100%, therefore when determining which control measure to implement it is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, maintenance and technical data sheets. https://www.nioh.ac.za/covid19-guidelines/
A household is still a workplace for some individuals, so a risk assessment, even if it is very basic, would have to be in place. As long as it identifies all the hazards the employee is exposed to and lists the control measures which have been implemented, that should be fine. It should not only include domestic workers inside the house, but outside the house as well, such as gardeners. The OHS Act does not differentiate between informal and formal work, as long as there is an employer/employee relationship and they meet the definition of the two.
There is limited scientific evidence available on this matter and neither has it been recommended by NDOH or WHO. However, the main concern is that this may affect the worker’s respiratory symptoms as the chemicals used may be allergenic or irritant in nature. The contact time and coverage on all surfaces is also questionable. Currently workers are advised to maintain respiratory and hand hygiene as control measures and surface disinfection of potential contaminated objects is recommended.
How do we effectively manage a situation where an employee is suffering side effects from wearing the cloth?
It is important to procure good quality masks made of cotton material which is less irritating. It is unlikely that several workers in one workplace will have an allergic type reaction to the cloth mask. However, irritant reactions are possible thus it is important to obtain good quality masks. If the worker has a history of allergies which should be in their medical file, this will be another clue of whether the condition is new or was existing before. Surgical masks can be used if cloth mask are a problem.
Is it necessary for an employee that is wearing a face shield, to also wear a cloth mask underneath?
The use of either one or both depends on the protection desired as informed by the risk assessment which looked at various activities within the workplace. The shield is to protect the worker from droplets and splatter and also protects the eyes, however a surgical mask is designed to contain inhaled droplets from being expelled into the environment by the wearer/user. A cloth mask is not considered as a PPE as it does not have a protective factor and merely aids in reducing droplet spread.
Can the testing of the employees be brought into work places especially if we are working with people that are coming from COVID-19 hot spot areas?
Screening has been recommended at workplaces and the occupational health services can screen workers and NHLS mobiles can be contacted to take the samples (depending on logistics, workforce numbers and availability) or other laboratory services. Please contact the NIOH hotline 0800 212175 for further information on the mobile service for workplaces.
Yes, this is regulated, as stipulated by the Department of Employment and Labour, but workers should be trained and informed first so that they understand the regulatory and safety requirements, company policies and their responsibilities.
Does the 500 employees’ stipulation apply per site (for companies with more than one site) or the total number of employees for the entire Company?
The regulation state per employer, so if sites are part of one employer, a combined report should be submitted, however, sites may differ and it would be more practical to submit for each site to the provincial inspectors. The signed off risk assessment should be submitted to the Department of Employment and Labour Provincial Chief Inspector or the Occupational Health Specialist. It is mandatory for companies that have >500 employees to submit. Those with 10 – 500 employees do not have to submit although it is good practice. Those with <10 employees do not have to submit however should have the risk assessment available as it will be requested if inspected.
|Province||Provincial Chief Inspector||OHS Specialist|
|Gauteng||Michael Msiza||Lesibe Raphela|
|KwaZulu-Natal||Edward Khambula||Sandile Kubheka|
|Eastern Cape||Lucky Mkhonto||Kulungile Nkanjeni|
|Western Cape||David Esau||Fezeka Ngalo|
|Northern Cape||Ivan Vass||Isaac Mohapi|
|North West||Boikie Mampuru||Lucia Ramusi|
|Limpopo||Phaswane Tladi||Carol Mthethwa|
|Free State||Manelisi Luxande||Makalo Khoele|
How do we disinfect sick bay or isolation room after a COVID-19 positive worker has been temporarily isolated there?
All surfaces should be disinfected. The chemical used will depend on the type of surfaces in the area. In general, 0,1% bleach or 70% ethanol can be used.
The frequency depends on the risk profile and varies for different workplaces (e.g. activities, density or population, frequent use etc.) and will be informed by the risk assessment. Have cleaning protocol in place. Examples: before the shift, midday and at the end of a shift, or every 4 hours. Have hand wash facilities or sanitizers accessible for frequent hand cleaning to prevent further contamination during the day and ensure staff are trained on proper use of facilities. Doors that can be kept open, leave them open to avoid frequent touching or frequent cleaning.
The World Health Organisation recommends more than 60%, hence 70% is widely used as being more effective and generally used for disinfection. 60% may be more gently for human use and 70% for surfaces.
How should people with hypersensitive skin be approached if the cleaning/sanitizing products cause them to have skin reactions?
They should be referred to the Occupational health practitioner or Occ. Health specialist or contracted dermatologist who will recommend possible alternative cleaning products.
It has been proven effective for surface decontamination to easily kill viruses but the devices should be installed properly, number of devices per room should be determined, irradiance must be measured and fixtures must be maintained.
Fogging is usually done for massive spaces, especially where some surfaces cannot be reached by hand and there is no manpower to do the disinfection. Regular wiping still applies, as long as the biocide is targeted for Coronavirus as well (please review your products to confirm efficacy) and the correct concentration is prepared. Note that cleaning (remove dirt) and decontamination (kills virus and is done after cleaning) are two separate processes.
Where can employees report EMPLOYERS that are not compliant and are not prepared to take all the necessary steps to prevent against COVID -19?
Employers that are not complying can be reported to the Department of Employment and Labour. The Department in a recent briefing stated that non-compliant companies will be shut down and employers face criminal charges. Telephone: (012) 309 4000
Yes, HBA RA is done every 2 years as per regulation and when there is any change (structure, procedure, technique, incident etc.) that happens before the 2 years have elapsed. With the COVID-19 situation, the risk assessment may be reviewed several times during the risk adjusted 5 alert stages of lock down depending on the company, as more workers return to work at different stages and as different controls are implemented at different times. The risk assessment is an ongoing process.
The use of public transport is a risk factor in addition to many other risk factors like, age, comorbidities. The employee is at high risk and thus should be provided with a cloth mask to mitigate the risk of exposure when using public transport.
If one has a small business, like a consulting business, where one works from the home, but sees clients both inside the home and outside the home randomly, is a risk assessment still mandatory for the business? How would this be affected with the presence of other family members in the home as well? Can we get guidance on this please?
Yes. The HBA regulation require all employers including self-employed persons to conduct risk assessments even if work is done at home. Family members must be included as well as visitors, as they all have the potential of either contracting or spreading the infection. Follow the same process risk assessment process. Identify potential source (clients, family, contaminated surface or objects etc.); how can the host (you as worker, family members in the surrounding, clients) be affected and what preventive measures you have in places (social distancing, masks, sanitizers, cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, online meetings rather than face-to-face meetings, screening of persons entering your premises as it is your workplace etc.). https://www.nioh.ac.za/covid19-guidelines/ ; https://www.nioh.ac.za/covid-19-presentations/
COIDA process is only for COVID-19 that is known, presumed or alleged to be occupationally-acquired. It is important for all workers that an incident investigation be done so that a written documentation and report can be found on each worker and suspected mode of exposure should a dispute arise. The Notice for Occupationally-acquired Coronavirus documents all the forms that need to be completed and where they need to be sent.
2. If an employee is COVID-19 positive, this information may be disclosed in the interest of public health?
Yes, this information has to be disclosed since it is a notifiable disease. These documents are completed by the treating doctor and sent to the NICD and DOH. However, for contact tracing, confidentiality has to be maintained as far as practically possible. Sometimes if it’s a small company people try to guess or speculate who the positive person is. This is important, since disclosing a person’s identity, that person may not want to notify the company that they tested positive. All workers should know there is a legal obligation to notify the Employer, if they test positive.
All cases in the work environment should have an incident investigation. The mode of exposure should be established. This is so that there is a documentation trail if any disputes arise later. If there are any disputes, rather complete the COIDA documents and let the Compensation Commissioner make the final adjudication.
4. Who can we contact if an employer is not following the gazette rules regarding positive COVID and close contacts not being allowed to self-quarantine?
Contact the Department of Labour. Below is a table of The Department of Employment and Labour Provincial Chief Inspectors and Occupational Health Specialists mobile and office contact numbers. If the Provincial OHS and Chief inspector cannot be contacted then send an email to the Chief Inspector Mr Tibor Szana: email@example.com
These are easily available online and follow the same process assessment as for an injury-on-duty assessment.
1. Immediate action
2. Plan the investigation
3. Data collection
4. Data analysis
5. Corrective actions
The best way to manage anxiety in workers is for them to know that management is well prepared to deal with a positive COVID case and to have open lines of communication.
7. Do employees that test positive for COVID-19 need a clearance certificate before going back to work?
No, this is not required at all if the worker had mild disease. If the worker had moderate to severe disease the Employer may request a fitness for work evaluation at the Employers expense.
8. Are low risk contacts of a positive employee subjected to testing or they can just monitor their symptoms in Quarantine?
Only high risk exposure contacts need to be quarantined and self-monitor. They only qualify for testing once they develop symptoms. Low-exposure contacts can continue working but also need to self-monitor at work.
9. Do employees have a right to stay away from work if they feel unsafe when a case has been reported?
This is contentious, the employee will have to prove on what grounds they feel that their life is being threatened and if this was adequately communicated to their manager using the correct channels.
By accessing testing services through the public sector, however, there are strict test protocols in place such as the ones we follow and advise in our presentations due to limited resources and test backlogs. This ensures that the people who need the testing the most are receiving it. If in doubt if you qualify for testing, please contact the COVID hotline on 0800 0299 99.
11. An employee went for testing and we are still waiting for the result. She requested that we keep the matter confidential. If we perform contact tracing, would we have to mention the name of the employee?
Not at all. See the Contact Tracing presentation on the NIOH website. The COVID-19 positive worker discloses who she was in close contact with. You can contact these people and notify them without disclosing her name and details.
Only employees that are coming into the workplace should be reported for symptom screening.
Vulnerability information must be submitted on all employees.
3. Should employees who work from home but test positive- does this still have to be reported on the system?
It will be enforced as long as the Disaster Management Act is in place and may continue depending on the Department of Employment and Labour regulations.
All positive cases should be reported to the NIOH. Records of positive cases and actions taken should be kept at the workplace for audits conducted by DEL
6. What are the requirements for NPO, organisations, persons working voluntary inside and outside the registered place of business, engaging with other members/clients?
Any person working at the business site will have to be included as employees with the same data submission requirements
Yes. Applicable from the 1st October 2020.
Yes. All businesses may register and submit information on the system. We will have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement since businesses with less than 50 employees are not legally mandated to submit information.
9. If we start using CSV to report, can we later change the reporting method or must we stick to the one we have chosen from the start?
You may change the submission platform, just inform us via email and we will then send you a new link.
10. Do the reporting requirements apply to the Mining Sector as the Minister of Minerals issued his own Direction on H&S Requirements?
Yes, it applies to all sectors.
The legislation (COP of DMRE covers the reporting to NIOH) – 18 May 2020.
2.1 In accordance with Section 9(2) of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996), as amended (MHSA), an employer must prepare and implement a Code of Practice (COP) on COVID-19 pandemic present and spreading in South Africa. This COP must comply with any relevant guidelines and instructions issued by the CIoM [Section 9(3) MHSA], including regulations and guidelines from Disaster Management Act (Act no 57 of 2002) and all other applicable statutory obligations related to COVID-19. Failure by the employer to prepare and implement the mine’s COP in line with this guideline constitutes a criminal offence and a breach of the MHSA.
5.3This Guideline must be read in conjunction with the following documents and any other applicable statutory obligations related to COVID-19: 5.3.1 Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002. 5.3.2 Directions issued by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy in terms of regulation 10(8) of the regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002. 5.3.3 Guiding Principles of Management of COVID-19 in SAMI. 5.3.4 Guidelines developed by the World Health Organization; National Department of Health, and National Department of Employment and Labour.
11. Will the NIOH and the DOH publish reports for the public to see what the reporting trends are for sectors and geographical locations so that employers can at least also benefit from the information that Government is collecting and analysing? If so, where would such reports be published?
These reports will be available on the NIOH website. A dashboard has been created and will be updated weekly.
Dashboard link: https://datastudio.google.com/embed/u/0/reporting/fadf4479-3723-4f0d-9a7d-ce4330a9e69d/page/heohB
No. Only the legal business entity registers. The branches will use the same Business ID number when they submit data.
13. Could you please identify the implication of POPI on the business when they submit personal information?
Please see Prof Jeebhay’s presentation on this topic.
14. Is the submission of employee data in line with POPI Act, will we be protected if an employee decides to sue for sharing his data?
Yes, data is in line with the POPI Act. We only collect personal data for positive cases (only ID number), rest do not have to submit personal data (but can submit unique employee number e.g. clocking number)
15. If there are no employees with symptoms or positive COVID-19 cases- do we still submit information.
No. You will only submit when there are symptomatic employees or positive cases.
16. On the templates, do we add data on the same spreadsheet or each submission would require a new spreadsheet?
You can do either. We will be able to pick up the previously submitted data and exclude it.
Yes. Permanent employees and contractors at the same worksite must be included.
No only data collected from the 1st of October 2020 should be submitted.
Please see the full list of job classifications by clicking the link below:
21. If the CSV templates are different from our business excel spreadsheets, can we still submit our business spreadsheets?
No. Your spreadsheets must match our templates.
22. On the positive test case data report, where foreign nationals are employed, should Passport Number be used instead of SA National ID?
A: No. Some viruses, retroviruses like HIV, are inserted into the host genetic material and can cause mutations. The genetic material of SARS-CoV2 is not inserted and the vaccines will also not result in genetic manipulation.
A: These vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. This can produce temporary side effects. This includes injection site pain, low grade fever, rash, muscle aches. In the large scale studies, these were reported by the participants generally as mild and lasted for a few days only. There have been reports of severe allergic responses to some but not all vaccines. These are extremely uncommon (approximately 0.001% of participants) and have not be conclusively linked to the vaccine. Importantly, side-effects are more likely to occur after the second dose of the vaccine.
A: Clotting is increased in individuals who are inflamed and for this reason any immunological challenge may increase the risk of clotting (including the vaccine) however, the risk of clotting does not appear very high and the risk of abnormal clots with severe COVID-19 are very high indeed. It is therefore better to take the vaccine risk than the risk of severe disease.
A: There is limited data available on the effect on pregnancy. Most vaccines have, however, been effective in pregnant women. Because of the risk of severe SARS-CoV2 infection in pregnant women, the WHO has recently reversed its decision not to recommend vaccination of pregnant women and many countries are now actively vaccinating women in the 2nd and 3rd trimester (www.who.int)
A: A number of individuals are on drugs which may suppress the immune response. This includes corticosteroids. Although there is no current indication that this affects the efficacy of the vaccine this remains something to monitor. Currently, pain medication (like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are being used in vaccinated individuals who present with side-effects like injection site pain.
A: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you have a condition that effects the immune system e.g. if you have HIV or cancer
If you have had an allergic response in the past to vaccination
If you are susceptible to bleeding
If you have any symptoms of active SARS-CoV2 infection or a fever
If you have received another vaccine for SARS-CoV2
There is currently no certainty since the majority of the vaccines only have about 6 months of data. It may be necessary to have this vaccine more than once?
A: We are currently not sure since the majority of the vaccines only have about 6 months of data. It may be necessary to have this vaccine more than once?
A: Some preliminary data suggests that this may be the case although the vaccine suppliers suggest that there are limited efficacy data on this approach. It has been utilised in some countries however including the United Kingdom.
A: The vaccine is currently not recommended for children under the age of 16 years. Children are also less likely to have severe disease. There has been some data that elderly patients may not respond as well to the vaccine but in South Africa, there is intention to vaccinate elderly patients who are at risk of severe disease and death.
A: If a number of individuals in a population have received a vaccine, they become immune and will not transmit the infection. This is generally considered to be about 2/3s of the population. This means that these individuals will protect other individuals in the population who cannot receive the vaccine for any reason.
A: Importantly, a number of individuals have had an antibody test after the vaccination. A reminder that serology (antibody tests) often measure antibodies against the nucleocapsid antigen and not against the spike antigen. This means that these tests will not pick up antibodies in people who have not had so-called “natural infection”.
A: A number of individuals who have had the disease have become re-infected. In some cases, infection does not result in significant immunity. In addition, there are variants of the disease circulating in South Africa so it is important to be vaccinated even if you had the infection previously. Similarly, there are cases of breakthrough infection even in vaccinated people especially with the variants. For that reason, vaccination does not mean that you are 100% protected. Importantly, vaccination significantly reduces the risk of severe disease and death.
A: No! Importantly no person can be forced to be vaccinated as per the President’s declaration. Individuals cannot be discriminated against in South Africa for not having the SARS-CoV2 vaccine.