How to ensure a safe work environment for your staff returning to work

It’s clear that COVID-19 has created several new challenges, especially for businesses. With level 3 of the national lockdown starting on the 1st of June 2020, many businesses who have been closed or have resorted to remote working during the lockdown will now be returning to ‘normal’. 

While this return may stimulate economic activity, we can expect a spike in cases. For business owners wondering how to protect their staff and customers during this time and ensure they remain operational, here are the basic guidelines for reopening, and the essential personal protective equipment needed for each industry. 

While business owners and managers may feel a sense of urgency to get their business back to normal as soon as possible, be sure not to rush through the essential health and safety guidelines and revised practices that should be followed to allow for a safe, stable return. The regulations that encompass business operations in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown include:

Ready the work environment

Ensure your facility, be it an office, shop, kitchen or factory, is disinfected and equipped with a blueprint for maintaining safe conditions. This may involve Perspex screens in front of tills, bulk hand sanitiser, non-touch mechanisms and regular cleaning procedures. Over and above these aspects, as a business owner, you will need to follow regulations put in place by the government including regular testing and screening of employees, providing staff with the necessary PPE and ensuring protocols are followed.

Ensure the necessary policies are in place

Create a policy for a safe working environment that will ensure the health and safety of your staff and customers in terms of transmission and exposure risk. This will include hand soaps, alcohol-based hand sanitisers, social distancing policies and the necessary personal protective equipment for your staff and your customers. 

Identify your staff’s exposure risk

Each business is different and so each business’ risks for transmission will too. Think about your facility and how your staff will come into contact with others in the environment. Practically, can they practice social distancing? How can you ensure their health and safety to ensure you remain operational? We suggest identifying the exposure risk for your particular business as well as the risks associated with travelling to work to decide how best to proceed. Risks for exposure include: 

  • High exposure risk

High exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. These are typically those on the frontline such as those in the healthcare, medical and pathology industry. 

  • Medium exposure risk 

Medium exposure risk environments would be areas where there is ongoing community transmission. People in this category may have contact or close contact (within 1 meter) with the general public including schools, large businesses, high-volume retail settings and those working in the courier industry. 

  • Low exposure risk

Lower exposure risk jobs are those that do not require or involve close contact (within 1 meter) of the general public. People in this category have minimal contact with the public and other coworkers. 

Where people cannot be one metre apart, ensure that you have done everything practical to manage the transmission risk. Since the risk of transmission is significantly higher when social distancing isn’t possible, the risk of exposure for your staff may be much higher and masks should be chosen accordingly. 

Consider your industry 

Businesses with medium exposure will need to have an action plan to prevent transmission and consider their industry when deciding on what masks will be most effective. Businesses related to the following industries may be deemed problematic in terms of social distancing:

  • education
  • food 
  • manufacturing
  • construction
  • agricultural
  • media
  • service-related businesses

For these industries, masks such as the KN95 and 3-ply single-use civilian face masks which can filter and capture 95% of virus-sized (0.1 microns) particles, trump cloth masks and will be the best options. For in-depth guidelines on essential personal protective equipment needed for each industry – be sure to read this blog:

Knowing the incredible impact that the COVID-19 epidemic would place on our country, we at Syntech felt the urge to assist with the supply of essential personal protective equipment for the South African market. Through supplying medical products we aim to protect our country’s medical staff while they continue to work throughout the pandemic, as well as supply businesses with the necessary medical equipment to return to operations during all levels of lockdown. When you place an order for civilian face masks on, for yourself or your customer, Syntech Distribution will pledge 10% of the proceeds from your order as a donation in surgical masks to the South African Department of Health. View our medical range here: . 


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