The Department of Employment and Labour has stated that SARS CoV2 (Covid-19) is classified as a group 3 hazardous biological agent (HBA). This means it is serious and highly contagious and presents the risk of spreading to the community. According to legal experts firm Bowmans, it has important legal implications for employers and businesses in South Africa.
What are some of the legal duties required of employees and organisations?
Every employer has the responsibility to fulfil certain legal duties regarding potential HBA (Covid-19) exposure. This means the onus is on the employer to:
- Educate, train, and instruct employees regarding the risks of the HBA and what precautions should be taken.
- Ensure a risk assessment is done and documented by a competent person. You can contact WWISE to conduct a risk assessment for you.
- Develop a plan based on the outcomes of the risk assessment and inform all relevant parties.
- Establish and maintain an exposure monitoring program.
- Get an Occupational Health practitioner to oversee a documented system. This could be an Occupational Health and Safety Management System like ISO 45001:2018.
Some of the advantages of implementing ISO 45001:2018 are:
- Safety: A well-implemented Occupational Health and Safety Management System contributes to an effective and efficient framework for employees, assisting in the reduction and/or prevention of injuries, accidents, near-miss accidents, medical diseases, and even deaths.
- Risks to occupational health and safety are managed effectively: A fully implemented Occupational Health and Safety Management System entails developing operational controls to manage related risks, contributing to risk reduction and minimisation, as well as raising risk awareness following applicable legal and regulatory standards.
- Reduced business costs: Fewer sick leave absences and lower healthcare expenditures all directly or indirectly lead to lower costs.
- Improved productivity: The ISO 45001:2018 Standard helps businesses to manage their employees more successfully by outlining acceptable and undesirable workplace behaviour. A good System increases employees’ commitment to the team/organisation developing and strengthening morale.
- Social responsibility: The activities of the organisation are intimately linked through active collaboration with all identified interested parties, not just those within the business, but also those that are outside of it. It demonstrates that the company is committed to adhering to a set of health and safety norms, showcasing to all stakeholders that the company is socially responsible.
- Improved and safeguarded brand value and image: By demonstrating that the organisation is meeting its health and safety duties, it preserves and strengthens its brand and credibility. It provides a clear statement to customers that the company is dedicated to adhering to a set of health and safety norms. This offers customers and potential clients more confidence to begin and continue working with the organisation, resulting in enhanced business competitiveness and brand building.
- Continuous improvement: Continuous improvement is required as part of the ISO 45001:2018 Management System to improve products, services, and/or processes. In the context of a management system, improvement entails identifying potential risks and opportunities, establishing strategies, and trying to become better in its day-to-day activities to minimise potential risks. Organisations that act towards continuous improvement and enhance not only their products or processes, but also their results and strategy, as well as their customer, employee, and supplier relationships.
Need to improve your business in this pandemic? Conform to ISO 45001:2018. WWISE can help you to achieve that. WWISE accomplishes excellence by driving our clients’ success through ISO standards. We help organisations to build resilience, allowing organisations to develop sustainably, adjust to any challenges, and thrive over time.