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COVID-19 safety protocols at work and school

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

With children going back to school and for those of us heading back to the workplace, protecting ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19 is a priority. With a new variant of the virus circulating and the increasing number of infections, you can rely on us for helpful advice on staying safe.

Below are some of the guidelines, for schools, from the South African Department of Basic Education1. While some apply specifically to school management and staff, many apply to students too. We look at these first, followed by guidelines for the workplace, from the South African Government.

Safety at school:

  • All hygiene, social distancing and symptom-screening measures are in place upon the students return to school and that these measures remain in place. Measures include:
    • Wearing of cloth masks, at all times, except when eating or drinking.
    • Regular hand sanitisation and proper hand washing for at least 20 seconds at a time.
    • Soap and hand sanitiser (70% alcohol-based) should always be readily available.
    • Always maintaining a social distance of 1.5 to 2 metres.
    • Staff and students must be well orientated with all safety protocols.
    • Anyone who shows signs of illness or takes sick leave, as a result of COVID-19, is given the necessary support.
    • The school ensures that parents are kept informed of plans and protocols and any changes to these.
    • The school promotes the protection, encouragement and support of vulnerable students.
    • The school collaborates with the district office who can offer psycho-social support, including counselling for students and staff.
    • All cases of student absenteeism are investigated by the school.
    • Break times are staggered to ensure that groups are kept to a minimum.
    • A healthcare facility is immediately contacted, by the school, if there is a suspected case of infection.

Other important reminders for your children:

  • Keep your mask on, covering your nose and mouth.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and sanitise between washes.
  • Ensure your nails and teeth are kept clean.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and face.
  • Do not share food, drinks, cups and utensils with anyone else.
  • Remembering to sneeze or cough into a bent elbow or tissue, and to throw the tissue away immediately and thoroughly wash or sanitise your hands.

For more information on COVID-19 safety in schools, click here.

Safety for those going into the workplace:

As with schools, many of the below key measures should already be in place, as set out by the South African government2. These may vary depending on the industry and the number of staff employed. If you’re a business owner yourself, ensure that all necessary measures remain in place for everyone’s safety.

Social distancing:

  • Workstations should be 1.5 to 2 metres apart. If this is not possible, there should be physical barriers between workstations.
  • Social distancing should be practised in all common areas like toilets, break rooms and canteens. Staggered break times may also be necessary depending on the number of people employed.
    • Employers should screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at work each day.
    • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must complete the mandatory 14-days self-isolation period.
    • Depending on the risk of exposure, employees who had close contact with an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 should be monitored for symptoms for 14 days after contact (in the case of low-risk exposure) or should be sent home and remain in self-isolation for 14 days (in the case of high-risk exposure).

Health and safety:

  • Employers should screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at work each day.
  • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must complete the mandatory 14-days self-isolation period.
  • Depending on the risk of exposure, employees who had close contact with an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 should  be monitored for symptoms for 14 days after contact (in the case of low risk exposure) or should be sent home and remain in self-isolation for 14 days (in the case of high risk exposure).

Other basic safety measures:

  • Everyone is required to wear a cloth mask that covers their nose and mouth throughout the day, except when eating or drinking.
  • There should be adequate hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser must always be readily available, free of charge. Only paper towel should be provided for drying hands as fabric towels are not permitted.
  • Bio-metric systems that require fingerprint recognition should be disabled. Many companies have already shifted to facial recognition.
  • Desks and any other work surfaces and equipment are disinfected before employees arrive and regularly throughout working hours.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of shared electronic equipment, common areas, toilets and door handles.
  • Employees engaging with the public should sanitise between each interaction.  
  • The workplace should be well ventilated by natural means or by air-conditioning.

For more information on COVID-19 safety in the workplace, click here.

If we all ensure that we follow the correct protocols, we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep more South Africans safe.


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