Updated: Jul 2, 2020
On 14 May 2020 the Department of Trade Industry and Competition gazetted the new Disaster Management Act (57/2002): Directions Regarding e-Commerce Sales during Alert Level 4 of the COVID-19 National State of Disaster. These Directions are applicable for the duration of Level 4.
As part of an incremental expansion of e-Commerce operations in South Africa, in connection with the re-opening of the South African economy, the Directions describe the goods which may be transacted through e-Commerce platforms and the protocols which must be observed by retailers, couriers or delivery services as well as customers in respect of goods transacted through online and digital platforms. Below we summarise the contents of the Directions for e-Commerce stakeholders in South Africa (including but not limited to online retailers, courier services and customers).
WHAT MAY BE TRANSACTED THROUGH ECOMMERCE?
Put simply, all goods may be transacted through e-Commerce platforms, except for goods prohibited for sale in terms of regulation 26 and 27 of the Regulations. Prohibited goods include: liquor and tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products.
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS APPLICABLE TO BOTH E-COMMERCE OPERATORS AND COURIER SERVICES
There are various health and safety protocols that courier services need to adhere to. Broadly speaking, e-Commerce operators need to adhere to all Regulations and Directions in respect of hygienic workplace conditions and the potential exposure of employees to COVID-19 (these include the COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Workplaces Directions - referred to as Annexure A in these Directive).A summary of Annexure A is provided further below.
More specifically, the Directive provides that:
Employees may not share face masks, equipment, stationery, utensils or similar items;
Designated and adequately trained health and safety officers must take each employee’s temperatures using appropriate equipment or instruments at the start of a shift and every four hours after the shift commences and until the shift has ended;
Records of the temperatures of each employee must be kept (Significantly, retention periods are not provided for); and
Any employee whose temperature is 37,5 degrees celsius or above should immediately be moved to an isolated observation room for a second measurement. If the second test measurement also exceeds 37,5 degrees celsius, the employee must be returned home for self-quarantine, provided with a surgical mask and not be permitted to enter or stay on the premises.
Annexure A “Directions in respect of hygienic workplace conditions”
The Directions were issued by the Department of Employment and Labour and provide employers with guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 in the workplace.
If an employer (warehouse, courier service or e-commerce platform) has more than 500 employees, the employer must submit a record of a risk assessment plan aimed at giving effect to the minimum measures required by the Directive, together with a written policy detailing the protection measures for employees to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace to the Department of Employment and Labour.
An employer must also ensure that employees are notified of these regulations and of the processes adopted by the employer to comply with the Directives. The method of notification may vary on what is reasonably practicable but may include leaflets and notices.
A manager of the employer’s business must be appointed as a representative who will have the duty of keeping informed of the regulations and amendments thereto.
The workplace should be arranged to ensure that there is a minimum of 1.5 metres between workers. If this is not practicable, physical barriers should be raised to ensure that workstations are separated. Social distancing must be observed in all areas of the employers business including common areas, canteens and bathrooms.
Health and safety measures:
The following health and safety measures must be implemented:
All employees entering the employer's premises must be screened, by the abovementioned designated and trained health and safety officer, for COVID-19 symptoms which include: a fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Any employee exhibiting symptoms must be isolated and provided with a FFP1-level surgical mask. The employee should return home for self-isolation after being informed of where to undergo testing.
Sanitizers and disinfectants:
Employers must ensure that hand sanitizer, of at least 70% alcohol content, is provided to employees free of charge and placed at the entrance of the workplace. Employees who work away from the office (courier drivers) must be given adequate hand sanitizer for use off-site.
All employees must be provided with at least two cloth face masks free of charge, which employees are required to wear both while travelling to and from work and while at work.
Monitoring and enforcement:
Employers should note that a designated Occupational Health and Safety inspector is granted powers to enter any workplace without prior notice in order to assess compliance with these Directives.
WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC PROTOCOLS APPLICABLE TO E-COMMERCE OPERATORS:
In addition to the Health and Safety Protocols highlighted above, Courier Services must adhere to the following additional protocols:
Retailers must give prominence to goods which are manufactured in the Republic of South Africa;
Retailers must provide for as many payment options as possible for consumers, that are based on reducing risks of transmission, and enabling poorer consumers to access delivery services;
When packaging goods, retailers must provide written guidelines for customers on how to safely disinfect their goods before use;
Retailers must put in place collection protocols to ensure that adequate social distancing is maintained