Friday | 27 March | 2020
I am a cashier at Pick n Pay and hundreds of people breathe over me daily. We must wear gloves when we scan the clients’ groceries past the scanner, but I am still afraid that I may get the virus. I cannot sleep at night due to my fears.
The coronavirus has the world in its grip and many countries must put measures in place to contain the spread of the virus. Although the President announced that the country must go into lockdown for a period of 21 days, essential services such as the food industry must continue to ensure food security in the country. Staff, such as cashiers and other workers in supermarkets deliver an immense contribution in this case. Supermarkets must take precautionary measures to protect these workers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes the coronavirus as a contagious virus and states that most people infected with this virus will experience mild to average symptoms and recover without any special treatment. Older persons and persons with underlying medical problems, such as heart illnesses, diabetes, cancer and chronic breathing problems such as asthma are at a higher risk to become seriously ill. However, preventative action must be taken at all times to reduce the risk of infection and spread.
In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have the duty to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. In exceptional cases where we must face a pandemic above average measures are needed.
Traders such as Pick n Pay’s David North told media that all their measures are in place to protect employees and the public. He mentioned that cleaning procedures have been improved and that they have placed more resources in their shop to help contain the virus. The cashier’s workspaces are often disinfected, hand sanitisers are freely available to both employees and customers and the shop’s trolleys are also often thoroughly disinfected.
On 20 March 2020, Professor Shaheen Mehtar, an expert in infection control, made the following recommendations in the Daily Maverick:
- Provide products for hand hygiene at all the workstations in the shops.
- Keep the environment clean and dry.
- Place notifications in the shop to remind employees what is expected of them.
- Clean the environment as often as possible.
- Employees must not touch their faces under any circumstances.
Mehtar further confirmed that masks and gloves are not required, and that the best measure you can take is to ensure that your hands are washed, and the surfaces are often cleaned with disinfectants such as alcohol. These recommendations are confirmed by the information currently available on the WHO’s webpage.
The flood of people to the supermarket and space between the cashier and the consumer must also be considered. The standard is that people should at least be a metre apart from each other and avoid physical contact.
As an essential services employee, you must notify the employer immediately if you start feeling ill, for the purposes of the national state of disaster. The employees will still be entitled to sick leave.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.