Now that the Covid regulations issued in terms of the National Health Act have been repealed, the wearing of masks is no longer required in “indoor public places”. What about the workplace?
There is significant scope for employers to relax mask wearing requirements (for employees and customers), but there are some aspects to consider before doing so.
The Code of Good Practice: Managing Exposure to SARS-COV-2 in the Workplace, 2022 (the Code) issued in terms of the Labour Relations Act still applies in respect of the workplace.
Employers therefore have a responsibility to determine – in terms of their own risk assessment – what measures (including the wearing of masks) should apply in their particular workplaces.
The Code must be read in conjunction with the Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA) regulations issued in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act on 16 March 2022. In terms of these regulations Covid-19 is classified as a Group 3 Hazardous Biological Agent and it has its own set of requirements with regard to risk assessment and management.
Scope for relaxing requirements
Despite the apparent restrictions mentioned above, there is indeed scope for employers to relax mask requirements – especially in workplace areas that can be regarded as public places. But this does not completely absolve employers from their responsibility in terms of the HBA regulations and the Code.
Requirements to be dropped?
The Code and HBA regulations are now out of kilter with the latest developments. One would therefore expect them to be dropped in the near future. But until then employers should be mindful of the fact that, technically, they still apply.
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