Going back to work: How to protect employees against COVID-19

As more parts of the South African economy begin to open up, employers are looking for ways to keep employees safe when they return to work.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has shared advice and resources for employers on how to protect employees from COVID-19. This includes safety measures to get the workplace ready for when employees return, advice on how to stay safe when taking public transport, and guidelines on wearing cloth face masks.

“It’s imperative that we responsibly restore the economy while working to flatten the coronavirus disease 2019 curve,” says Dr Ahmad Haeri Mazanderani in a podcast posted on the NICD website.

The mental effects of COVID-19 on employees

Returning to work after COVID-19 may be scary, awkward and jarring. Self-isolation and quarantining during the pandemic may have affected your employees’ mental health.

People placed in quarantine or self-isolation may experience a wide range of feelings, including fear, anger, sadness, irritability, guilt or confusion. They may find it hard to sleep.” The pandemic may also increase feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

Prevent the spread of social stigma around COVID-19 in the workplace

For most people COVID-19 is a disease that can be overcome. What is important is that we talk positively and emphasise the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures. We must encourage the sharing of facts and prevent the spread of misinformation that stigmatises people who acquire COVID-19, as this might

  • Cause people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination
  • Prevent people from seeking healthcare immediately if symptoms arise
  • Discourage people from adopting healthy behaviours that prevent the spread of COVID-19

How to avoid catching COVID-19 on public transport

When employees go to work, it’s important that they stay safe on the way there – especially if they use public transport.

The NICD has identified five key moments during a commute when workers should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser:

  1. Before going on public transport
  2. After touching doors, handrails or money
  3. After making contact with other people
  4. Before touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  5. When you arrive at your destination

For your more information on your COVID-19 workplace protocols, please speak to your HR representative

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