‘Safe Return to the Workplace’ Guideline

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) and Zutari (formerly known as Aurecon) has launched a ‘safe return to the workplace’ guideline to help facilitate a responsible reopening of offices in South Africa. 

safe return to the workplace

“What is emerging is a realisation that lockdown cannot be a long-term strategy against COVID-19 and that the ‘new normal’ for workplaces is evolving because of the need for human interaction,” said Georgina Smit, GBCSA’s Head of Technical.  

“Although a ‘new normal’ is emerging in office working, it will need to respond not only to a changed world of work but will have to manage health-related risks as well,” she added.   

Best practices and recommendations

The guideline, developed by GBCSA and Zutari, is a technical guide for existing buildings that identifies best practise recommendations for a healthy and safe return. The guide is available for free and aimed at building owners, facilities managers, office managers and tenants.

“Commercial buildings design standards don’t aim to minimise the spread of infectious disease. Not to the same extent hospitals. However by implementing various measures in the workplace can reduce the risk of transmission.” said Martin Smith, an experienced mechanical engineer and Technical Director at Zutari.

The framework and guideline consist of five categories and 45 initiatives. The range of options to consider when implementing the return to the workplace; with safety as the key priority. It provides an overview that identifies infection control strategies at various levels of decision-making and responsibility.

Smit explains; “the guidelines are similar to the Green Star rating tools with various interventions under applicable categories. A short aim description and background are provided for each initiative. The guide puts forward a recommended best practice for each initiative. It is a user-friendly starting point for stakeholders to understand what needs to be considered for a safe workplace.”

Points of control

The guide considers initiatives related to management, personal behaviour, indoor air quality, safe water systems and design for safety. Each category is collated around the point of control within the building in mind. For example, the Management Category highlights the need for mental health support services that encourage resiliency and ensures that discrimination does not occur.

Smit said that the first step for those interested in applying this to a building they work in is a healthy building assessment audit. “The purpose of this is to provide an understanding of the current status of the building and its related services and address the preparedness of management and staff to handle health-related risks. It serves as a gap analysis of your building’s status in relation to desired outcomes and requirements of this guide.”

Zutari’s Martin Smith emphasised that the role of air quality needs to be considered. “You really want to address building ventilation rates to ensure sufficient ventilation or outdoor air supply rates are provided to minimise a build-up of pathogens or contaminants suspended in the air. Good amounts of fresh air also contribute to occupant wellness, which could have translated into productivity benefits.”

Mitigation strategies

When considering mitigation strategies for your building; it is important to understand how infections such as COVID-19 spread. The risk associated with the following four most common transmissions routes should be addressed when using this guide: person to person via macro droplets; airborne transmission; fomite transmission and faecal-oral transmission. 

“Mitigating risks associated with each one of these transmission routes has a massive impact on the way a building and its occupants need to be managed to ensure everyone’s safety;” Smith added. 

It is the responsibility of organisations encouraging staff to return to work; to ensure due processes and protocols are followed for the safety of employees. Companies need to be compliant with the SA Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) Regulations and Guidelines. This guideline provides free additional robust support for the South African commercial and retail sector; through the lens of green building priorities.

GBCSA and Zutari urged stakeholders to; “use this opportunity to facilitate the shift to creating healthy spaces for people to work; collaborate and contribute to creating a better place for all of us.” 

The Framework & Guideline for the Safe Return to the Workplace can be viewed and downloaded here. The initiatives can be downloaded here.



Latest


25 Jan 2021
The devastating consequences of not properly managing residential wastewater

Two years ago, the National Construction Authority said more than 70 per cent of buildings in Nairobi were unsafe for occupation. A…

The devastating consequences of not properly managing residential wastewater

Two years ago, the National Construction Authority said more than 70 per cent of buildings in Nairobi were unsafe for occupation. A rough estimate shows this is about three out of every four buildings. The authority depicted a worrying situation regarding the safety of the buildings in the city and its environs.…

25 Jan 2021
Offices are still important for collaboration and building company culture

While the most significant long-term impact of Covid-19 will be issues stemming from flexible working, in the long term “we…

Offices are still important for collaboration and building company culture

While the most significant long-term impact of Covid-19 will be issues stemming from flexible working, in the long term “we are going to have to find the balance between working from home and the office,” points out Paragon Group Director Anthony Orelowitz. “We are going to find that our current…

20 Jan 2021
Promac expansion to mark 30th Anniversary

Promac Paints, privately-owned South African paint producer and a leading toll manufacturer of quality paint and coatings, has expanded its…

Promac expansion to mark 30th Anniversary

Promac Paints, privately-owned South African paint producer and a leading toll manufacturer of quality paint and coatings, has expanded its operations with the installation of additional automation and capacity at its Silverton, Pretoria plant. After the company’s new expansion, and the acquisition of the 51-year-old Cedar Paints two years ago,…

20 Jan 2021
Zutari ensures world-class sustainability ratings for top-rated projects

Despite the slowdown in new-build projects, Zutari is still receiving enquiries from property developers keen to pursue Green Star ratings.…

Zutari ensures world-class sustainability ratings for top-rated projects

Despite the slowdown in new-build projects, Zutari is still receiving enquiries from property developers keen to pursue Green Star ratings. The engineering consultant has worked on two out of only a handful of projects in South Africa to receive an As-Built 6 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building…


Top stories


23 Jan 2020
Refurbishment at North West University

As the three established divisions of Norcros SA, TAL, Johnson Tiles and Tile Africa recently played important roles in an…

Refurbishment at North West University

As the three established divisions of Norcros SA, TAL, Johnson Tiles and Tile Africa recently played important roles in an extensive tiling project at North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus in North West Province. The project entailed refurbishing the five-block Sports Village, a guest house facility providing accommodation for the public, athletes…

06 Mar 2020
7 Awe-inspiring marble use cases

Marble, an exceptionally versatile material used for centuries to create awe-inspiring art, majestic staircases, classic kitchens and resplendent flooring. With…

7 Awe-inspiring marble use cases

Marble, an exceptionally versatile material used for centuries to create awe-inspiring art, majestic staircases, classic kitchens and resplendent flooring. With today’s contemporary design trends, the wide selection of marble can be used in more ways than ever before.

05 Mar 2020
First Green Key Boutique Hotel in South Africa

21 Nettleton attains their Green Key Award from WESSA, becoming South Africa’s first boutique hotel to achieve this accolade for…

First Green Key Boutique Hotel in South Africa

21 Nettleton attains their Green Key Award from WESSA, becoming South Africa’s first boutique hotel to achieve this accolade for its efforts in sustainability. An exciting partnership between WESSA and 21 Nettleton has resulted in the private boutique hotel in Clifton, Cape Town being awarded the prestigious Green Key award.…

27 Feb 2020
The Nxuba wind farm Renewable Energy

In its ongoing efforts to showcase the potential that renewables can play in boosting the security of energy supplies in…

The Nxuba wind farm Renewable Energy

In its ongoing efforts to showcase the potential that renewables can play in boosting the security of energy supplies in South Africa, Enel Green Power (EGP) highlights its commitment to the country as it nears the completion of its Nxuba wind farm in the Eastern Cape. The company recently started…


Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za