Information & Resources for Workplaces- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The 2019 novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 is a new respiratory virus that has not been identified before; and thus people have no immunity to it. The virus causes diseases of varying severities ranging from mild (e.g. similar to common cold) to severe (e.g. pneumonia).
To obtain easy-to-read, question-and-answer fact sheets covering a wide range of COVID-19 workplace health and safety topics, click on one of the fact sheet topics below. In addition, easy to read posters issued by NIOH are available also below. All files are print ready, available in PDF format and can be used for awareness and education purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Guidance for dentist practitioners.
Contact with people should be limited, because one cannot reliably identify patients who are asymptomatically infected. Many dental procedures produce aerosols, known to increase exposure potential if patients are infected and because PPE is in such short supplier, aerosol generating procedures should be limited. The SA Dental Association as well as the ADA recommended only emergency treatment be done at this time. If you must treat, CDC advises that you ask screening questions and if patients fall into risk categories perhaps consider referring to a medical centre that would be appropriately equipped. If there is potential for aerosols even when performing the urgent procedures, then appropriate administrative and engineering controls should be in place followed by appropriate PPE as informed by your risk assessment.
As of 16 March, 2020, face masks are not recommended for the general public or workers that are not directly exposed.
If you have respiratory symptoms like coughing or sneezing, experts recommend wearing a surgical mask to protect others. This may help contain droplets containing any type of virus, including the flu, and protect anyone within three to six feet of the infected person.
The decision for employees to wear PPE should be based on the outcome of the risk assessment. These employees should include those are likely to be exposed to suspected cases, symptomatic and those likely to perform aerosol generating procedures.
These workers include:
- Airline operations (e.g. airline cabin crew, aircraft cleaners, mechanics)
- Boarder control (e.g. security officials, and other boarder officials)
- Health care (e.g. paramedics, nurses, doctors, other medical staff)
- Laboratories (e.g. medical technologists, scientists, laboratory aids and researchers)
- Pathology and funeral services (e.g. mortuary attendants, autopsy technicians and funeral directors)
- Solid waste and wastewater management (e.g. waste pickers, water treatment plant
In addition, if a person/ worker is symptomatic they need to wear a surgical mask to prevent transmission.
For more information on use of PPE please see https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331215/WHO-2019-nCov-IPCPPE_use-2020.1-eng.pdf
Employers should consider applying the hierarchy of controls in terms of implementing the controls prior to using the of PPE. Appropriate use of PPE involves proper selection and training and information on how to put on, remove and dispose of it.
PPE includes gloves, surgical masks, goggles or face shield, gowns, aprons and in specific circumstances respirators such as N95 or FFP2 standard or equivalent.
But it must be emphasised that the use of PPE should be minimised.
There is currently a worldwide shortage of N95 respirators, thus they need to be supplied to workers that are at high risk of exposure such as health workers in contact with COVID-19. Workers who are required to wear respirators should be to be fit tested to confirm fit prior to use.
Due to the shortage of stock, unnecessary use of PPE should be discouraged. In general, masks should only be usedor if you have symptoms such as sneezing or coughing. You need to know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
Gloves require frequent changing. Thus every time one touches a potential contaminated surface, their nose, mouth and eyes, the gloves need to be changed. If not changed, this may result in cross contamination. This is not feasible with the current stock shortages.
Surgical masks are not tight fitting respirators. Therefore, if the concern is exposure to COVID-19, then a tight fitting respirator such as FFP2 or N95 should be considered since the use of the surgical mask may allow droplets to n enter through the sides, top and bottom of the mask.
A specific job risk assessment needs to be conducted to determine which PPE are required.
Evidence in peer-reviewed literature does not support the use of thermal scanning as an efficient measure for detecting fever in travellers or individuals requiring access to workplaces (1-4).
Studies have shown that many travellers that have passed the temperature- based screening had subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (5-7). A study by Quilty et al., (2020) demonstrated that approximately 46% of travellers would not be detected by airport thermal scanners (8).
The reasons for this include:
- The individual may not have symptoms as yet i.e. they are still in the incubation period.
- The individual may be on antipyretic medication to suppress a fever.
- It may yield a false positive result (fever due to another cause).
The accuracy of the thermal scanner is variable and requires close up face imaging (<50cm) which leads to an unnecessary risk for droplet spread of COVID-19.
The NIOH recommends that a broader strategy be used to identify possible COVID -19 cases. This includes a brief screening questionnaire assessing the risk of exposure either from travel within the last 14 days or a close contact with a positive COVID-19 patient and a symptom checklist.
A screening questionnaire can be found at https://www.nioh.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/self-declaration-questionnaire.pdf
NASO/OROPHARYNGEAL SWABS and respiratory samples are used to identify the corona virus. Full details of specimens and how to collect and transport are found at http://www.nicd.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-Quick-reference-v7-10.03.2020-Final-clean.pdf
These are currently being processed at the national Institute for Communicable diseases
Currently, patients are being suspected of having coronavirus if they fulfil the following criteria and contact their health care provider who will then decide if testing is necessary. The criteria are found at http://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/,
Currently this includes:
Persons with acute respiratory illness with sudden onset of at least one of the following: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever [≥ 38°C (measured) or history of fever (subjective)] irrespective of admission status AND
In the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, met at least one of the following epidemiological criteria:
- Were in close contact 1) with a confirmed 2) or probable 3) case of SARS-CoV-2 infection;
- History of travel to areas with presumed ongoing community transmission of SARS-CoV-2
- Worked in, or attended a health care facility where patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections were being treated
- Admitted with severe pneumonia of unknown aetiology.
Please watch for updates as this might change.
The numbers are changing rapidly.
The most up-to-date information is available from the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Johns Hopkins University.
It has spread so rapidly and to so many countries that the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic (a term indicating that it has affected a large population, region, country, or continent).
COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019,” is the official name given by the World Health Organization to the disease caused by this newly identified coronavirus.
Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. The name corona refers to a crown because these viruses have crown-like spikes on their surface when viewed under an electron microscope. There are many different coronaviruses identified in animals but only a small number of these can cause disease in humans. Some coronaviruses such as 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 are common causes of illness, including respiratory illness, in humans throughout the world. Sometimes coronaviruses infecting animals can evolve to cause disease in humans and become a new (novel) coronavirus for humans. Examples of this are the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), first reported from Saudi Arabia in 2012, and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), first recognized in China in 2002. On 7 January 2020, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Guidance for childcare facilities and schools regarding preparedness and response to COVID-19
This guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Guidance will be updated as new information emerges. Please check the NICD website (www.nicd.ac.za) for updated guidance.
Schools can play an important role in efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. Schools can take steps to circulate information about the disease and its potential transmission within their school community. Schools can prepare to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID19 among their learners and staff should health officials identify such a need.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in January 2020, declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high [...]
Know How it Spreads
- There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.