MBSA GUIDELINES FOR MEMBERS – CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
In view of the outbreak of COVID-19, it is important for each one of us to make the necessary adjustments to be alert, safe and appropriately responsive. The intention of this letter is to let you know about some of the risks that we face as an industry and recommend strategies and practical ways to manage risks that may emanate from this crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, and President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government measures to combat its spread. Members are encouraged to view and implement the measures recommended by the South African government to manage the disease.
PRACTICAL STEPS FOR MANAGING SITE ACTIVITIES:
The health and safety of our employees should always be a priority and we recommend that members should utilise the World Health Organization pandemic preparedness approach, which is based on the following main pillars:
Educate and Inform your employees about the virus, how it is spread, and how to protect oneself and others. Communicate relevant company policies promptly, clearly, and in a balanced manner. Beware of misinformation and fake news, especially via social media platforms. Use only credible sources of information like The World Health Organization, NICD and US Center for Disease Control and Prevention websites.
Minimise Transmission through practical actions such as:
- Facilitating personal protective measures by providing hand sanitisers, tissues and receptacles for disposal, facilities for washing hands with soap and water, and adequate PPE for site employees.
- Instituting appropriate environmental measures such as routine cleaning of clothes, equipment, and frequently used surfaces, and minimising the sharing of objects.
- Practicing social distancing measures by ensuring appropriate ventilation, reducing crowding in break rooms and transport vehicles, increasing use of email and teleconferences, holding meetings in open spaces, adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings and assessing the risks of business travel.
Manage potential cases of respiratory illness in employees by regularly screening and promptly referring ill employees for medical assessment and testing. Encourage employees to self-report illness and advise ill employees not to come to work and to consult a healthcare provider. Also consider a single contact point for all concerns relating to the pandemic.
It is also important for Members to take note of these matters related to managing work on sites:
- Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). There are no additional PPE requirements over and above what the law currently requires. However, stringent hygiene requirements should now be enforced.
- Testing sick employees. Employees who are ill should be urgently referred to a health service provider for further management. Testing for COVID-19 can only be done by qualified health professionals and cannot be conducted on site by the employer.
- Absence from work. There has been no government prohibition on employers expecting employees to attend and remain at work like any other day. Guidelines on managing employees’ leave are available on the Master Builders website. Members can also contact their local Association for guidance on the matter.
PRACTICAL STEPS TO MANAGE YOUR OPERATIONS:
It is important to be as pragmatic as possible about the economic risk this pandemic poses to our industry. We are facing another possible downturn in construction activity as the South African and world economy inevitably slows down. The suggestions below are over and above medical recommendations provided by experts and are aimed at preparing members for a prolonged period of difficult economic times ahead.
- Tighten up your overheads. Where possible, suspend any planned non-essentials such as new furniture, moving offices etc.
- Save. Avoid taking out money for profit-sharing, dividends etc.
- Stabilize your supply-chain. Use safety stocks, alternative sources, and work with your suppliers to anticipate and solve bottlenecks ahead of time.
- Plan for security and maintenance of equipment on sites, in anticipation of a possible shutdown.
- Review the terms of your insurance policies and work and supplier contracts, in particular those related to business interruption. Establish the extent of your cover/exposure due to potential disruption caused by the pandemic.
We cannot predict the course of events or their impact over the coming days/weeks. However, we will continue to provide you with guidance on consequential matters such as managing employees’ sick leave and other contractual matters that may arise.
Members are encouraged to contact their local Association for any further assistance that they may require.
MASTER BUILDERS SOUTH AFRICA