With South Africa being on a national lockdown and the world facing a global pandemic due to the coronavirus, employers need to take special precautions to ensure the safety of their employees.

This is according to ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, who says: “Contingency plans together with the right Contingency Manager can help to mitigate the impact of these disruptions.”

The Contingency Manager has a critical role to play in this process as this individual needs to take steps to manage this evolving situation to keep employees safe, while ensuring continued delivery of business operations.

ManpowerGroup South Africa offers some specific advice on what the role of a Contingency Manager should include:

* Actively monitor the development of the virus outbreak and work with management to send out messages to employees with clear instructions of when measures need to be activated.

* Educate employees on the latest available information. Brief them on the need for infection control measures and the preventive procedures that have been set in place. Educate employees on the different types of thermometers, such as oral and ear thermometer, and the proper way of using them.

* Collate updated contact information of all employees, i.e. home address/home telephone number/ mobile phone number. Make sure all employees have contact numbers of Contingency Manager/Assistant Contingency Manager. Employees are to contact the Contingency Manager if they are admitted to hospital with suspected infections for contact tracing purposes.

* Ensure that the company has appointed at least one designated Point of Contact (POC), who will be responsible for liaising with the local government agency during activation of contact tracing processes at the workplace.

* Check local government websites daily for updated advisories (such as travel advisories) and update employees accordingly.

* Ensure that employees who have travelled to affected areas are quarantined for a sufficient number of days, as advised. Check on employees’ health by phone or email during his/her absence from work.

* Appoint an employee to keep quarantined employees informed of events in office.

* Ensure that the workplace has adequate supplies of tissue paper/hand towels, disinfectants and masks.

* Brief employees on personal hygiene measures. These include: wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water before and after preparing food, after going to the toilet, before and after eating, after coughing and sneezing, and after removing personal protective equipment like mask and disposable gloves; sneezing and coughing should be done onto tissue paper which should be carefully disposed; avoid sharing of cups, cutlery, etc; avoid physical contact such as shaking hands; put up notices in washrooms on proper hand washing techniques; and ensure common areas e.g. pantries, washrooms, meeting rooms are disinfected daily. Liaise with cleaning employees/contractors on this.

* Designate a room/area in the office with nearby toilet facilities as the isolation room/area for the employee(s) with fever to use. Identify the isolation route (a route that is not commonly used by employees/ visitors) that leads to an area where the employees with fever can be brought to the flu clinic/hospital.

* Identify hospital/clinics that employees with fever can be taken to.

* Where advised by government agency, carry out symptom or temperature monitoring of employees. If temperature monitoring is instituted, ensure employees measure their temperature twice daily.

Van den Barselaar adds that depending on the employee strength and size of the company’s premises, an Assistant Contingency Manager should be appointed as a backup to cover the duties of the Contingency Manager.

“With uncertainty looming around the effect of the virus on businesses, being productive, delivering results and looking after one another remains a priority,” concludes van den Barselaar.