We have received many inquiries relating to how the Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries Act (or COIDA) applies where an employee becomes infected with the virus in the workplace. Vuyo Mafata, Compensation Commissioner, has signed a government notice 20 March 2020 for the Department of Labour which relates to Compensation for Occupationally Acquired Novel Corona Virus Disease under the COIDA Act, as amended.
This notice which came into effect immediately upon publication provides that all employers and Medical Service providers must follow the prescripts when submitting claims and supporting medical reports in this regard.
When submitting reports online through the CompEasy system, Medical Service Providers must use the COVID-19 code U07.1 as proposed by the WHO. A claim for occupationally acquired COVID-19 shall clearly be set out as contemplated by section 65 and 66 of the Act.
Diagnosis in this regard will rely on the following:
- Occupational exposure to a known source
- Diagnostic procedure followed which complies with the requirements of the WHO
- Travel History in relation to work assignments in high-risk environments and
- A chronological sequence of work exposure and the development of symptoms
This notice categorises occupations in accordance with their risk of exposure
- Very high exposure occupations, which includes healthcare and laboratory personnel.
- High exposure risk occupations, which includes mortuary workers and medical transport personnel
- Medium exposure risk occupations, which are occupations where employees may come into close contact with individuals who MAY be infected. This would typically include occupations where services are rendered within an environment where there is ongoing community interaction
- Low-risk occupations would be where the employee has minimal exposure to other individuals or occupations, which can be done remotely. The pandemic has forced many businesses to adapt their employees’ working conditions to fall under this category.
The notice also categorises levels of impairment and the benefits applicable to each
1. Temporary total disablement (TTD)
Payment for temporary disablement for the duration thereof, not exceeding a period of 30 days
2. Suspected / Unconfirmed Cases
Period of self-quarantine, as recommended by a medical practitioner. The employer will be liable the time that the employee is not rendering services in terms of sick leave benefits.
3. Confirmed Cases and medical aid
Where the fund has accepted liability for these cases, payment will be for up to 30 days after diagnosis.
4. Permanent disablement
This will be assessed by the Commissioner
5. Death Benefits
Where the fund has accepted liability, reasonable burial expenses will be paid as well as a temporary pension benefit to the family of the deceased.
The following documents should be submitted
- WCL1 – The employer’s report of an occupational disease
- WCL4 – Notice of an occupational disease and claim for compensation
- Exposure and medical Questionnaire
- First Medical Report WCL22 indicating the code of U07.1
- WCL110 – Exposure history
- Medical reports and radiographs
- WCL26 – medical progress report for every doctor’s visit
- Final Medical Report
- An affidavit from the employee if the employer cannot be traced
Claims processing are facilitated by the office of the Compensation Commissioner and its trained medical assessors. These officials take responsibility for the processing thereof. Manual claims can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act provides that the risk-mitigating steps, where reasonably practicable, need to be taken by the employer and would depend on the circumstances of the workplace. This will require the employer to conduct a risk assessment. If not done, an employer may be found to be negligent and liable for compensation. Employers will need to take a pro-active approach to managing health and safety in the workplace. Not only must they, for instance, issue PPE to employees, provide cleaning chemicals etc, but proper records of when and how these are issued should be kept, so that the employer can at a later stage, provide proof of what measures were taken to avoid the spread of the disease.
Practically, the employer needs to ensure that the following are done within the workplace:
1. Compiling a safety plan and risk-specific assessments
2. Daily Checklists (see attached)
3. Proper records are kept of PPE and cleaning material purchases and records of when, how, and to whom these are issued
4. Opening a proper safety file
5. Medical records be kept
6. Election of a Health and Safety Committee,
7. Proper meetings with committee and records kept thereof.