Many businesle1ses employ hundreds of workers who are required to be stationed in close proximity to each other in order to execute their work. Where the nature of the work is such that it cannot be performed remotely, and physical attendance at the worksite is an essential component of the job (particularly in the manufacturing and retail sectors), keeping the worksite safe and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases becomes critical.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to implement mandatory safety measures, as set out in the regulations issued under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 (the Regulations)1. However, with the rollout of the nationwide vaccination programme, and the relaxation of some of the Regulations, businesses are considering their extended roles and responsibilities in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 amongst their workforces, and are considering whether mandatory testing for COVID-19 and/or vaccination of its workforce is permissible.
Walking the line between public health and safety interests and the individual’s right to bodily integrity is not an easy task. However, in the current global circumstances, the matter cannot easily be ignored or sidestepped, and businesses may be called upon to define their approach.