FAQ: Occupational Health And Safety for Tourism and Travel Businesses

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As tourism and travel attempt to de-risk the sector with a view to lobbying for an earlier relaunch, a set of draft protocols has been developed.


To talk about some of these, as well as provide advice on how to prepare for your own return to the workplace, ASATA organised a webinar with two occupational hygienists, Naadiya Nadasen and Kenneth Boyers, from APEX Environmental.

You can access a link to the recording here, as well as view the presentation here.

Nadasan en Boyers have also answered some of your most pressing questions:

Q: Could you advise a disinfectant products/chemicals for surfaces? 

Any reputable disinfectant with a manufacturers’ label which states “antiviral activity”.

See for example:

SARS-CoV-2 approved disinfectants include (always read product safety / use labels):

  • Alcohol (minimum 70%) – ethanol or isopropanol
  • Chlorine (via sodium hypochlorite (minimum 5000 ppm or 0.5%)
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds
  • Peroxides
  • Phenols

Q: Could you share your thoughts on a product called Repletec 4, which coats services and kills virus on contact. 

A: We have not heard of Repletec 4, and so cannot comment. We would not recommend forgoing regular surface disinfection in any way. If you are going to use such a product, then ensure that is has been independently tested and verified.  

Q: Do air-conditioning or heating systems have an impact on cleaning requirements? 

The type of air conditioning / ventilation system you have will not influence how frequently you are required to clean and disinfect surfaces. Ventilation controls do not replace cleaning and disinfection controls. Good ventilation helps to reduce the risk of airborne transmission; it does not reduce the risk of surface contamination by infected droplets. 

Q: Is the use of UV3 advantageous on surfaces? 

Generally, you will need to review your specific product’s safety data sheet (SDS). The product will need to contain a proven anti-viral ingredient, in the required minimum concentration. If that product is stated to be a suitable disinfectant, you would still be required to apply that product at sufficiently frequent intervals, depending on the nature of the area / surface. I reviewed one UV3 product, and it did not contain anti-viral ingredients / properties.  Fabric protection products could be “advantageous” in the sense that they help to keep surfaces clean(er), but this does not replace your more important controls – such as regular surface disinfection – and in the case of furniture, possibly removing certain furniture altogether to reduce the number of surfaces that can become contaminated / require cleaning / decontamination.

Q: Do sanitiser dispensers need to be hands free?

This would be considered a “best practice”. It is not a requirement (i.e. not mandatory), but if you have the means to implement such a system (cost, availability etc.), then do so. If you can’t, ensure regular disinfection of the dispenser buttons; or reduce / eliminate the number of people who touch the dispensers, e.g. appoint a dedicated person to dispense hand sanitiser. 

Q: How long does the virus survive on wooden surfaces like tables and counter tops?

No longer than 2 days, according to at least one study (see e.g. thelancet.com).

Q: How can we sanitise clothing?

Sanitising of clothing is not recommended by the world health organisation, due to its chemical risks (e.g. skin damage) and possible ineffectiveness. Instead, sanitise soles of shoes, or remove shoes before entering your home, and carefully remove and wash all clothing (on a hot cycle, > 70 °C) as soon as you get home. Take care not to allow the outer (outward-facing) surfaces of clothing to touch your face when removing. Wash and /or sanitise hands after handling dirty laundry. 

Q: What protocols need to be signed? 

COVID-19 Draft Protocols for Tourism Industry Operations. Section 1 states:

“All CEOs, general managers, or owners of businesses that open for operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, will sign a pledge that they will adhere to these protocols”.

Q. How many times should transport companies sanitise / disinfect shuttles per day?

Refer to the draft Protocol. 

In summary, it states:

Surface sanitising

o Frequent use short-trip vehicles (between each use)

o Longer trips / end of day (deeper clean)

o. Hire vehicles (similar deep clean on return)

Q. In the event a driver collects guests at the airport, does he/she need to scan the temperature of the guests before they board the transfer vehicle?

See Section 4 of the Draft Protocol: “Temperature of all GVPCs will be taken on arrival/ boarding/ pick-up/ check-in etc.”

Q: Is it recommended that we have our carpets and chairs cleaned before the staff return to the workplace?

It would depend on the circumstances. If your establishment has been vacant for the duration of the lock-down, then any virus which may have been present prior to the lockdown is not likely to have survived, so deep-cleaning / surface disinfection would not be necessary (prior to re-entry). Regular surface cleaning and disinfection my still be undertaken regularly. (See section 9 of the draft protocol).

If you have had a COVID-19 positive case or contamination incident on your premises, then decontamination would be required.

Q: Does level 3 still stipulate 70% capacity per vehicle?

Vehicle capacities are subject to change between lockdown levels, and possibly also within a particular lockdown, at government’s discretion. Rather do regular checks on government websites or reputable media outlets for that information, to ensure correctness. 

Q: What paperwork trail is required for filing such as risk assessments etc? 

The department of Employment and Labour have issued a COVID-19 OHS Directive (download from here), which states the following:

  • Clause 16.1 – Every employer must undertake a risk assessment, to give effect to the minimum measures required by that Directive, taking into account the specific circumstances of the workplace. 
  • Clause 16.2 – Employers with more than 500 employees must submit a record of its risk assessment together with a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of its employees from COVID-19 as contemplated in section 7(1) of OHSA to its health and safety committee (established in terms of section 19 of OHSA); and the Department of Employment and Labour.

Generally, this means that you must have a written (includes electronic) record of having conducted a COVID-19 risk assessment at your establishment, of all work areas / worker groups. Click here for risk assessment guidelines (CCOHS).  See also Apex’s Power Point slides.  

Q: What is your advice on communal areas such as the kitchen, common fridge, kettle, cups, cutlery,… Do employees need to bring their own equipment? Where do they have their lunch? Where do they store their lunch?

There is not specific requirement, that staff must bring their own equipment / food etc. In terms of providing and serving food, ensure that any regulated requirements are adhered to (if / where applicable). 

See Section 14 in the draft Protocol: “Staff kitchens, canteens, and bathrooms must be operated under the same hygiene, sanitising and spacing standards as guest restaurants (see Protocol sections 10, 11 and 12).” You need to abide by all of the same social distancing, sanitising, ventilation controls etc. as for other areas.

Q: Will Apex endorse/accredit tourism businesses for compliance in Covid-19 mitigation?

Yes we can. We have developed a certificate, to be issued to a business once it has demonstrated sufficient compliance with the minimum legal requirements. This would typically be preceded by a COVID-19 Risk Assessment, conducted by Apex.

Q: Women have a higher temperature especially when they are ovulating. How does one manage this when recording staff temperatures?

As a general starting point, the OHS Directive states:

  • Clause 21 – Employers are required to screen employees for fever, and for workers to report any fever to the employer. 
  • Clause 23 – Symptomatic persons should not be permitted to enter the workplace, or that specified procedures be followed if they are already on the premises. 
  • Clause 23.3 – Employers must ensure that the symptomatic workers are tested or referred to an identified testing site.

There is also a medico-legal aspect to this question which falls outside of Apex’s scope (in terms of confidentiality and discrimination on the basis of gender). Such issues should be referred to an appropriate legal person. 

There are other issues around temperature screening as well. For example, many temperature scanners also under-read temperatures – and staff have not been trained on how to interpret the results, or don’t know when there is an instrument fault.

Q: What measures should be taken in office where there are coffee stations and staff sharing milk etc.? 

Very strict measures should be employed for:

  • Regular surface disinfection (including containers and packaging materials)
  • Regular hand sanitising (before AND after using kitchen facilities)
  • No sharing of utensils, crockery etc. (and wash in hot water > 70 °C)
  • Maintain strict occupancy rates (e.g. restrict number of users at a time)
  • Enforce social distancing 
  • Ensure adequate ventilation 

Q: If the virus can also be caught through the eyes, why are face shields or goggles not compulsory?

Regard must be had to affordability, as well as risk of exposure. If a physical distance of 1.5 meters or more can be maintained, then there should be no need (or less need) for visors / goggles. 

Q: If people standing closer than 1 m apart are separated by, say, transparent fabric screens, would the transmission be halted? 

“Fabric” screens (i.e. textile / cloth) will not provide sufficient protection against infected droplets. The material used must be impervious to microbes and easily cleanable, such as glass or Perspex. 

A suitable impervious physical screen, where properly used, will provide protection against infected droplets. It may not be sufficient in environments where there is a risk of airborne transmission (e.g. certain hospital environments).

Q: Are companies obliged to provide 2 to 3 masks per day? Are they responsible for the maintenance and cleaning of the cloth masks?

OHS Directive Requirements Draft Protocol Requirements 
  
Clause 31.1 – Employers must provide each of its employees, free of charge, with a minimum of two cloth masks (to be worn at work, and when commuting to work).Section 8 – The business must provide: Sufficient disposable masks per staff member per shift, or  A minimum of 3 cloth masks per staff member.  
Clause 32 – The number and replaceability of cloth masks…must be determined: in accordance with any sectoral guideline, and  with regard to conditions of work    
Clause 34 – Employers must make appropriate arrangements for the washing, drying and ironing of cloth masks.Section 8 – laundering of masks may be at home, or provided by the business.     See also Section 14: “Staff who care for their own uniform or work clothes at home, need to be trained and assisted to sanitise uniforms correctly. If possible it is preferable that uniforms be cleaned at an inhouse or outsourced laundry, where they can be properly cleaned on deep high temperature cycles and steam press or heat ironed”.

Q: We are under the impression not to purchase N95 masks, as they are essential PPE equipment and only for front line personnel. What are your thoughts please, as this seems quite contradictory?

That is correct. The shortage of medical grade masks globally and in South Africa means members of the public should not use these critical resources at the expense of frontline health workers. This excludes employees / areas identified to require more protective masks in terms of clause 35 of the OHS Directive (i.e., if identified as a requirement by the risk assessment).

Q: Is it necessary to put or install a protective shield / barrier between the driver and the passengers on a minibus for protection?

If it would be reasonably practicable for you to do so, then yes (i.e., taking into consideration the risk, affordability, physical possibility etc.). See draft Protocol, Section 10.1 – Vehicles: “Where possible, Perspex should be introduced to shield and protect the driver”

Q: Should frontline staff be using face shields in addition to material masks?

Clause 37 of the OHS Directive requires the following:

Arrange the workplace to ensure a distance of at least 1.5 metres between workers and members of the public, or between members of the public; or 

Put in place physical barriers, or

Provide workers with face shields or visors

Q: How do we dispose of the face masks and gloves? Is this in the normal garbage collection? 

The draft Protocol generally requires masks / gloves etc. to be disposed of into a biohazard boxes or containers.

Section 16.1 of the Protocol states – “When caring, serving or cleaning for or after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, biohazard disposable waste bags, boxes and containers must be used for waste and all soiled /dirty items including used PPE, which is going for cleaning or disposal”.

To avoid overwhelming the healthcare waste disposal industry, the following additional steps are recommended in respect of masks, gloves, paper towels, etc. generated through activities not linked to clinical “health screening” activities:

All PPE to be placed in bags in waste bins that preferably have “no-touch lids” (lids are opened by pressing a foot pedal).

When full, the contents of the bag are sprayed with a disinfectant solution of 0.5% hypochlorite.

The bag is placed in a second bag and tied.

The bag is left for at least 1 day before being released for disposal via the usual municipal waste removal services.

Q: Does a clear visor replace the mask requirement, or does one have to wear both?

Cloth masks have been made mandatory by the Department of Employment and Labour – COVID-19 OHS Directive (clause 31).

The cloth masks serve as an “isolation device”, which means that they help to prevent or reduce the risk of an infectious person shedding contaminated droplets, which could infect people close to them (< 1 meter away), or from contaminating the surfaces around them.

The purpose of face visors (in terms of clause 37 of the Directive) is primarily to protect employees themselves from becoming infected when interacting with the public (or other large volumes of people).

Visors do not replace the purpose of masks, as they will not prevent or reduce the risk of droplets being shed from an infected person as effectively as a mask will.

Q: If the company is cleaning the masks, can masks be shared or should they be named|/ labelled to return to the original owner?

Sub-Regulation 11(3)(a) of the Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents states that an employer shall, as far as is reasonably practicable, not issue personal protective equipment which has been used to an employee, unless it is capable of being decontaminated and sterilised prior to use.

As far as possible, do avoid sharing of masks, e.g. by labelling them.

Q: How many of the symptoms would need to be present for it to be a reason for concern?

There is no specified minimum number. Any symptomatic persons should be referred to a health care practitioner for further guidance. 

Clause 21.3 of the OHS Directive states that workers are required to immediately inform the employer if they experience any of the symptoms specified in sub-clauses 21.1 and 21.2 while at work.

Q: I assume HIV + employees would be regarded as high risk (4). What are the legalities of asking employees to declaring their HIV status?

This is a medico-legal question, which doesn’t really fall within Apex’s scope of competence. I can comment generally, but these questions should be referred to the appropriate medical / legal persons.

People living with HIV and on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) are currently not at an increased risk of getting coronavirus, or developing severe symptoms (see: Avert.org (COVID19 and HIV).

HIV status in the workplace is clearly addressed in the Employment Equity Act. Discrimination on the basis of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is also protected (see clause 23.5 of the OHS Directive).

Q: What protocol must office workers follow if staff or guests enter and high temp is indicated?

Refer to the procedure specified section 16 of the draft Protocol, and section 16.2 in particular. See also clause 23 of the OHS Directive (also discussed in Question 17 above). But note also comments in Question 31 above.  

Q: If there is a positive case, is it necessary to quarantine the office again or just staff and guest?

Clause 23.2.2 of the COVID-19 OHS Directive states if a symptomatic worker / person is already at work, then the employer must immediately:

  • Assess the risk of transmission
  • Disinfect the area and the worker’s workstation
  • Refer those workers who may be at risk for screening, and 
  • Take any other appropriate measure to prevent possible transmission

The extent of the quarantine and disinfection will therefore depend on the findings of your risk assessment.

Q: How can we contact APEX?

CONTACT DETAILS  
Department of Labour AIA Number:OH 0084-CI 034
Company Name:Apex Environmental cc
Physical Address:40 Beechgate Crescent, Southgate Business Park, Umbogintwini, 4126
Postal Address:P.O. Box 2079, Amanzimtoti, 4125
Contact Details:Tel: +27 (0)31 9141004                                                        Fax: +27 (0)31 9142199                       
Website: www.apexenviro.co.za   
Email: info@apexenviro.co.za 
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/Apexenviro   

Disclaimer: Apex Environmental makes no warranty or guarantee as to the absolute correctness and suitability of the contents of this document. The final responsibility lies with the reader to ensure the correctness and suitability of these answers, comments, or recommendations. Apex Environmental shall not in any way be liable for any loss suffered by the reader as a result of such answers, comments, or recommendations. The information and recommendations provided in this report have been made in good faith with professional integrity.

The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry is unprecedented and unpredictable. The nature of the content that is being shared on the ASATA coronavirus microsite is therefore constantly changing. Please check the date of the post to ascertain its recency.
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