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Your Life, Your Job, Your Health: Workman’s Compensation and Covid-19

A brief history of COID cover

COID or 'Workman's Compensation' provides coverage of workers injured or contracting ailments during their jobs. The Fund is regulated by the 1993 Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) (amended in 1997), which specifies how (and by whom) the fund is managed and the eligibility requirements for compensation.

The year 1914 saw the passing of the first Workmen's Compensation Act (WCA). Before passing the act, workers injured at work had to institute a claim against the company for negligence. However, the challenge of arguing wrongdoing for workers and high legal costs left the effect legal systems could have as limited. Compensation can only be paid if the employer accepts personal blame.

In 1941, a new Labour Party coalition government was formed. Many industries' political interests preferred labour compromises to benefit the war effort. As a result, the 1941 WCA was passed to report all injuries to a WC Commissioner. No more private compensation arrangements for employers and employees were allowed. Compensation would be paid by a state fund to which all employers would pay depending on their wage budgets.

Nowadays, the Compensation Fund is administered by the Compensation Commissioner or licencees such as Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) and Federated Employers Mutual (FEM) under section 30 of the COID Act who approve the claims and payment of benefits.

When an employer registers with RMA, they form part of our database as a compliant business in accordance with the requirements of the law. This goes a long way to ensure that every employee who is injured or on duty under the Act has the peace of mind that their medical bills are taken care of and that their families are not left worse off in the case of injury or death claims.

How Employee Insurance Benefits protect you?

COIDA covers registered employers from civil claims in good faith and allows all part-time and full-time workers to claim compensation for work-related accidents and illnesses either from the Fund or the licencees.

The types of injuries are detailed in the policy scheduled provided to an employer and should be communicated to employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a case study of COIDA coming into play to help companies and their employees. Since most companies already hold COID cover, occupationally acquired COVID-19 is covered.

If COVID-19 is acquired at a place of work the following benefits would be covered:

  • Temporary Total Disablement (TTD): Payment for temporary total disablement shall be made for confirmed COVID-19, from date of diagnosis, for as long as such disablement continues For suspected and unconfirmed cases, the employer will be liable for payment of TTD’s during the self-quarantine period 
  • Permanent Disablement: Each case will be assessed on its merit, considering the complications that developed as a result of COVID 19 diagnosis o Medical Aid In all accepted cases of COVID-19, medical aid shall be provided from the date of diagnosis. As long it is reasonable, and it will reduce disablement. 
  • Death Benefits: Reasonable burial expenses, widow’s and dependent’s pensions shall be payable, where applicable, that means if the cause of death has direct link to the reported COVID-19 claim. 
  • Quarantine Site Cost: Reasonable quarantine site accommodation costs will be payable for all confirmed cases where liability has been accepted and the claimant is in a quarantine site other than their normal home of residence, for the duration of the quarantine period.

COID under everyday working conditions

Think of COID as a safety net in an effective and comprehensive Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) strategy. In South Africa, this often involves occupational health and safety for indoor, office-based jobs.

The primary goal of health and safety management should be two pronged:

  1. To prevent infection or exposure of workers to adverse effects of agents (physical, environmental, biochemical, ergonomic, psycho-social, and mechanical) in the workplace. 
  2. To protect employees from possible contamination from biological contagions.

Steps should be taken to incorporate risk prevention and management programmes aimed at minimising or preventing illness and disability. This leads to changes in the conditions of the workplace which require employers to train and facilitate safe behaviour in everyday work.

A good example of this is consistent fire drills. Employees should know how to exit a building, who the fire marshals for the building are, and where they need to coordinate themselves once outside (or distant enough from the hazard).

Claims can be rejected if it proved that the employer has been negligent in maintaining other regulations and laws. So, in the example of a fire drill, if the building's steps are defective or obstructed and someone is injured or dies as a result, the employer may be liable, and not the COID Fund.

The objectives of occupational health and safety policies must be:

  • The promotion and preservation of the highest level of physical, emotional, and social well-being of employees in all occupations. 
  • Avoidance, among workers, of departures from work due to unsafe working conditions. 
  • The safety of workers in their jobs against risks arising from conditions adverse to health. 
  • The location and care of the worker in an area adapted to his physiological and psychological abilities. 
  • Adapting labour to man and man to his labour.

The purpose of health and safety in the workplace is to promote positive wellbeing of all stakeholders as well as preventing injury and illness. In the professional and regulated environment, health and safety is the responsibility of employers.

Many health and safety related legislations and regulations contain requirements for the design and operational aspects of a workplace environment or installation to promote physical safety for workers.

There are numerous factors that impact on employees’ ability to work safely; issues related to light quality, glare, ergonomics, disregard for safety concerns and maintenance requirements. A sustainable and well-thought out ES&H framework is one of the most important aspects of business and is essential for the long-term success of an organised labour force.

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