Brian Joss – The South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), a member of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), representing approximately 750 fuel stations countrywide, is standing behind its staff members, who are deemed essential workers, by requesting all customers wear masks when utilising any of their convenience stores.
This week a fuel station was criticised for requesting masks be worn by customers utilising its C Store. The customer was asked instead to place an order at the outside service window. “We understand that this may have taken the customer by surprise, but it indicates our commitment to keeping our staff safe,” says SAPRA director, Vishal Premlall.
The question of wearing a mask has been hotly debated ever since the coronavirus outbreak first started.
In the Czech Republic, a highly successful mask campaign has been promoted with the slogan “I protect you, you protect me” – which is precisely what wearing a mask is all about. Premlall says this is exactly why the organisation has asked that customers at fuel stations and their accompanying forecourt shops wear masks. “It’s about accountability,” he points out. “The coronavirus crisis has brought into sharp focus the need for personal accountability and around the world there is a move towards more responsible caring. Wearing a mask is part of this. It’s not merely about making sure that you don’t contract the virus; it’s also taking a proactive step to prevent spreading it if you don’t know that you’ve been infected,” he says.
“This is especially important,” he continues, “because as essential workers, employees at petrol stations, or any other essential service staff for that matter, don’t have the option of staying home. Instead, they risk their health every day, not only on public transport to reach the workplace, but also serving hundreds of customers who may or may not be infected. That’s why our request to wear masks is a serious one. We greatly appreciate the risks that these staff members are taking, and we have the responsibility to repay their bravery by doing all we can to protect them,” he says Premlall acknowledges that, since wearing a mask is a recommendation rather than a regulation from government at this point, we are simply requesting our customers, in the spirit of embracing a safer future, to wear masks.
“While we cannot enforce this as we know some customers don’t have the materials to make their own masks or cannot afford to purchase one, we have made it possible for customers to purchase the goods they require without entering the forecourt shop by ordering through the cashier’s window.”
“At a time when uncertainty and the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis spell anxiety for most, it’s more important than ever to take personal accountability and do what small things we can to look after each other. Together we can help contain the spread of the virus,” he concludes.
CAPTION: Proactive: SAPRA director, Vishal Premlall.