Tuesday | 31 March | 2020
Solidarity Research Institute
By this time people worldwide are thoroughly aware of the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. We indeed have to do with a paradoxical situation; on the one hand self-isolation has up to now proven to be the best method to combat the spreading of the virus, but on the other economic maintenance is absolutely essential.
For the economy not to collapse totally, people have to work. Certain industries or professions can continue relatively normal with their work from home, while for others this is not possible.
On 23 March President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will officially be in a lockdown state as from midnight on 26 March. There will however be key sectors which will remain functional. These include:
- Food and essential products: Supermarkets and petrol stations.
- Essential products include toilet paper, cleaning agents, disinfectants, personal hygiene products, bed linen and clothes and essential products for health care centres.
- Essential infrastructure services:
- Electricity: Private and public service providers. Employees who are essential for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. These include municipalities, suppliers of logistic services and raw materials as well as service providers who do maintenance work.
- Water provision, sewerage and sanitation: Private and public service providers who play an essential role in traditional water provision and sanitation as well as service providers responsible for the supplying of portable water in bulk. These encompass municipalities as well as providers of chemicals, materials and relevant equipment.
- Information technology: Private and public service providers such as data centres, optic cable (fibre), reception masts and antennas.
- Critical business continuity services in support of health and safety of employees:
- Food and essential services
- Manufacture of health-related products, supplies, apparatus, equipment and medicine as well as supplementary health products.
- Food provision-related products and services such as agriculture, veterinary sciences, phytosanitary services, services relating to pest control as well as suppliers of chemicals and fertilisers.
- Forestry and sawmills for production of disposable hygiene and health products such as toilet paper as well as service providers responsible for the production of packaging of essential products.
- Plants for the production of food and drink.
- Warehouses, transport and logistic services of food and essential products.
- Harbours, roads and railway networks will remain open for transport, import and export of essential products.
- Covid-19: Auxiliary services
- Health care centres, pharmacies and laboratories.
- Service centres for companies listed under business continuity services.
- Professional services with regard to craftsmanship.
- Cleaning and laundry servings as well as hospitality services in support of essential and business continuity services as mentioned above.
- Hotels, airlines and vehicle hiring agencies to the extent that they can assist personnel of essential and business continuity services in the execution of their duties.
- Financial and insurance services to support essential and business continuity services and to offer bridging capital to business owners.
- Communication and media services such as television, radio, the press and online media.
Experts agree that employers are legally bound to ensure the health and safety of all employees as well as persons who could be affected by these activities.
If you are at the steer of a company or organisation where working from home cannot be an option for all employees, measures can definitely be put in place to make an economic contribution and still keep your employees safe.
In the first part of the article (“Make your business virus resistant: Part 1” the focus was on hints on how you can manage your labour organisation to come out stronger on the other side, in the midst of Covid-19 (click here for a one-page summary of an example reaction structure that companies and organisations can use).
In part two of this series on how to make your business virus resistance, the focus is on a Covid-19 crisis centre which companies and organisations can erect to manage economic activities and uncertainties about this pandemic and take the best possible decisions. This article offers further action steps which companies and organisations can take to ensure both productivity and safety in the workplace as well as providing answers to certain burning Covid-19 related labour issues.
Erection of a crisis centre
McKinsey & Company, an undertaking which helps top enterprises to gain ground on the global scene, recommends the erection of a crisis centre for companies and organisations, focusing on the activities of the specific company/organisation.
Such a crisis centre entails the organising of a leadership team for companies and organisations that focus on the following (click here for a feasible example of a crisis centre for your company/organisation):
- Communication and regulatory requirements.
- Wellbeing and welfare of the employees.
- Supply chain management.
- Management of buildings and sites.
- Management and installation of relevant technology.
- Management of finances.
Practical steps that can be taken
McKinsey & Company also recommends certain action steps which can be implemented by the crisis centres of companies and organisations to ensure the wellbeing of the company and of its employees. These action steps entail practical hints at the basic, moderate and extended level in the following areas (Click here to download these action steps):
- Policy and management
- Two-way communication
- The physical workplace
- Health and government involvement
Fine, you have now established a crisis centre and implemented certain measures to keep your personnel safe, but you still have questions about the safety of the personnel who cannot work from home and therefore are still on the business site:
Question 1: Are there risks connected to the use of biometric systems for access to workplaces, and if so, how can infection be prevented?
Yes, the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected surface.
Surfaces can be disinfected with a disinfectant that contains at least 70% alcohol.
After contact with the biometric system, the contact surface must be cleaned and employees must wash their hands with soap or disinfect them with a hand disinfectant.
McKinsey & Company recommends that fingerprint access systems be switched to retinal access systems to lessen spreading of the virus.
Question 2: Are there risks attached to the use of breathalysers to test for alcohol, and if so, how can infection be prevented?
Alcohol tests in workplaces, especially in high-risk workplaces, are very important in the management of health and safety.
The security guard who controls the breathalyser, naturally runs the risk of being infected with the virus, which is why it is important that he/she wears an appropriate mask and gloves and disinfects the apparatus as well as the immediate surroundings continuously.
The breathalyser must be cleaned thoroughly with the suitable disinfectants after an employer has been tested. It will also be wise to use disposable pipes.
Question 3: Does the risk of infection with the virus exist in open plan work spaces where more than 100 people work and what can be done about it?
McKinsey & Company recommends the restructuring of large open plan spaces where key personnel can be divided to sit in different areas of the workplace, as the gathering of 100+ people is forbidden in term of the Disaster Management Act.
Employees should also allow only a certain number of personnel in communal areas such as cafeterias, bathrooms and meeting venues at one time. The National Institute for Occupation Health (NIOH) recommends that employees in open plan offices not sit less than two metres away from each other and that work surfaces be disinfected hourly, or that employees wash their hands hourly with water and soap (for at least 20 seconds).
Question 4: If an employer contracts the virus in the workplace, will it be considered to be an occupational disease?
Yes, if you work in a profession (for example the medical sector) where there is a high risk of being infected with the virus, it will be classified as an occupational disease.
If you are infected with the virus and you don’t work in a profession with a high risk of infection, it will be difficult to claim in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.
The disease is not one of the listed diseases in the act, which means that the employee can claim if he/she can prove a causal link between his/her workplace, activities and Covid-19 by way of medical documentary evidence.
If an employee is infected at work by another person, it cannot be classified as an occupational disease.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.