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Coronavirus outbreak in SA – How to guard yourself in the workplace

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Janine Do Cabo  Sustainability & Leadership Development  |  Dubai, UAE

March 2020

The coronavirus started 11,000 km from the Kwazulu Natal coast, in the Chinese city Wuhan located in the Hubei province.  After many went back and forth with speculations as to how the virus started, the conclusion is that it came from seafood and poultry.  In just 30 months 76 000 cases were reported resulting in global mayhem.  It’s literally taken the world by storm and has almost overnight become a worldwide pandemic.  With the media covering it’s spread extensively and thoroughly and markets that plummet by the minute, every individual with a device and an internet connection is looking for information that could prevent them from getting it, understand how the virus spreads and/or follow where the next outbreak has occurred. As it stands today, Italy is on lockdown and every tourist or traveller who has been there being closely scrutinized for symptoms. 

Till March, the Coronavirus was the problem of the first world, not having reached the continent of Africa, but after a 38-year old man and his wife returned from a holiday in Italy, what was a foreign disease, has been brought closer to home. To date, there are a recorded 24 cases reported from the Health and Safely Minister Mkhize raising alarm amongst South Africans as the numbers rise daily.  The biggest concerns are: when should one get checked if they possess the symptoms, what is the procedure to get checked and where this is done and most importantly, how can you safeguard yourself against contracting it. Before the 7th everyone was looking at returning travellers as the individuals to keep an eye on, but when a man in Bloemfontein contracted the virus through a Chinese businessman, the focus was taken off of Italy alone as the reason for the virus being in South Africa.

With 2/3s of our lives spent at the workplace, the possibility of contracting the disease from a colleague is high.  With that in mind the question arises; how can we stay clear from being a part of the global statistics as individuals as well as companies?  I’m glad you asked.  Below, we will have a look at answering that question.

  1. Getting the message across

This is where the old saying, ignorance is bliss DOES NOT apply.  Conversely, ignorance could get you sick.  For this reason, communication strategies should be in place for internal employees as well as clients in the form of meetings, emails or both informing them that as an organization, you are taking a proactive approach in dealing with the virus coming to SA, and not turning a blind eye.  In so doing, it develops trust for employees as well as the customers and suppliers who exchange goods and services with you.  The communication should be about informing the public of the current affairs surrounding the virus and how the company intends to prevent its spread.

Once communication has been established, it’s good to put what you said in motion by….

  1. Disinfecting surfaces

According to the World Health Organization, the focus of workplaces should be on hygiene.  The way to go about this is by wiping surfaces down regularly with a disinfectant to prevent the contraction from an infected individual to surfaces.  Surface contamination is one of the main ways COVID 19 spreads. 

If an ill-informed infected person sneezes into their hands and gives someone a handshake, the virus is passed on.  An effective way to prevent this is by… 

  1. Using hand sanitizer

Washing hands regularly is a common hygienic practice taught from a young age to minimize the spread of germs and contraction of diseases, but in the wake of the COIVID 19 virus, normal soap and water would not suffice alone. Instead, employers should encourage the use of alcohol-based sanitizer that is easy to access and available for everyone in the form of a dispenser.  Unfortunately, there is no way to make sure this is done unless one is present to enforce the use of hand sanitizing and, but there is a way to make it clear to them the importance of following such measures.  This is done by putting up informative posters that highlight the Coronavirus and how the spread of it can be prevented when using hand sanitizer.  In doing this, you kill two birds with one stone; you make them think that they had the bright idea of hand sanitizing and also educate and influence the public.

Alcohol-based sanitizer kills the virus and prevents its spread.

COVID 19 is a respiratory virus that attacks the respiratory system.   Sneezing and coughing into hands or into the atmosphere are sure-fire ways to spread the disease if infected; it is for this reason practicing good respiratory hygiene is a must by…

  1. Making the necessary respiratory articles easily available

By necessary articles, I mean face masks for those sneezing and coughing, closed bins to dispose of masks hygienically and tissue paper to blowing runny noses. 

Again, the use of posters would come in handy to inform people of how to sneeze to prevent the spread of disease.  Sneezing into the elbow is promoted as opposed to hands and people should be made aware of this.

In line with the use of face masks is knowing how to wear them and how to dispose of them so that it would not be a vain effort.  The WHO, has made this information available on their website but in summary, it says:

  1. Only wear a mask when coughing or sneezing.
  2. Before wearing the mask, wash hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water.
  3. Cover the nose and mouth ensuring there are no gaps between the mask and face.
  4. Do not touch the mask while it is on.
  5. When removing the mask, do so from behind, without touching the front.
  6. Dispose of the mask in a closed bin and wash hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  7. Replace the mask as soon as the previous one is damp.

Or just make your own home made-mask.The bottom-line over and above is to keep your peace because although this foreign disease has come to our shores and through our borders, there have been no reported fatalities.  Together, we can all do our part in preventing the spread of this disease and avoiding nationwide pandemonium.

PPE equipment will protect the user against health or safety risks at work.

Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly.

Make sure you always have spare PPE products when needed. Contact Silvanus@jdcexecint.com for more info, prices and products.


Download the Coronavirus in SA – Timeline and more stats here. 

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