Extracts From “Preparing The Workplace For Coronavirus” by Dr Mpume Ndaba, Occupational Medicine Specialist, NIOH

The Covid-19 virus has a fragile outer membrane:  it is less stable in the environment and can be killed by simple disinfectants. Survival time in the environment depends on

  • pH
  • Inoculum size (required concentration of expected microorganism for a standard test)
  • Dryness
  • Temperature
  • Exposure to disinfectants (common disinfectants such as 70% ethanol and bleach can kill the virus)
  • Type of surface

Workplace Preparedness

  • Anticipated number of staff
  • Opening up of services (employee-public shared spaces)
  • Risk assessment (potential risk of transmission)

These include operations, activities and shared spaces (among employees and employees / public). Workplace changes include considerations such as

  • Engineering controls (strategies designed to protect workers from hazardous conditions by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard)
  • Admin controls (training, procedure, policy, or shift designs that lessen the threat of a hazard to an individual)
  • Substitution (removing the hazard from the workplace)
  • PPE (personal protective equipment)


  • Observe social distancing
  • More office space ̶  working offsite
  • Workplace facilities
  • Access control-staff, visitors, dedicated streamlined / controlled access

Non-Medical Management Preparations

  • Debriefing staff about new changes
  • Psychosocial support
  • New work organisation
  • Access control
  • Spatial arrangements
  • Review cleaning and disinfection procedures

Training and Awareness

  • Sensitise skeleton staff
  • Communicate with staff at home
  • Key operational people (HR / access control personnel)
  • Procedures to be followed
  • Procedure review
  • Confidentiality vs public health outbreak

Primary Prevention

  • Minimise risks of transmission in the workplace. HRA (health reimbursement arrangement) including controls (Engineering, Administrative and PPE)
  • Business continuity and pandemic preparedness policies
  • Education and training / risk communication
  • Minimise risks of transmission in the workplace
  • Screening and identification of potentially affected employees, limit contact and movement
  • Social distancing
  • Promote regular and thorough handwashing by employees, contractors and customers
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Avoid touching your face, especially while working
  • Encourage / insist that symptomatic persons stay away / self-isolate

Workplace Practices to Review

  • Mass gathering (water/coffee stations, common areas)
  • Waiting areas ̶  clinic, medicals, etc.
  • Meetings (forums)
  • Specific procedures: spirometry (measuring lung function) ̶  consider method and assess risk, breathalysers (safety risk), etc.
  • Access control methods (biometrics, signing-in with common material such as pens)
  • Public spaces and workers

Medical Management

  • Workplace cleaning and disinfection protocols
  • Medical fitness issues and returning to work
  • Mental health issues
  • Impairment assessment / compensation
  • Work restrictions



Posted in Construction Health and Safety, Covid-19, General.

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