All businesses will need to put in place new measures to ensure work safety in respect of COVID-19.
Many workers are anxious about returning to work and their safety in doing so. Communicating the steps you’re taking to protect their safety will help manage this. It is also necessary to ensure you’re on solid ground to manage both your health and safety risk management requirements and avoid unauthorised absences, or address these where they occur.
Kate Ashcroft from Copeland Ashcroft Law provides some advice for business owners around health & safety.
You can read WorkSafe guidance on considerations here, and it advises business to consider:
- Are there any risks arising from restarting your business or a business activity that has been shut down during alert level 4, and how will you manage these?
- How will you ensure all workers know how and are able to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?
- How will you gather information on the wellness of your workers to ensure that they are safe and well to work?
- How will you operate your business in a way that keeps workers and others safe from exposure to COVID-19?
- How will you manage an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19?
- How will you evaluate, and continuously review, whether your work processes or risk controls are effective?
- How do any changes impact on the risks of the work you do?
What do businesses need to do before staff return to work?
We recommend that businesses:
- Communicate with workers and identify whether any are:
- in the ‘at risk’ category
- required to self-isolate
- unwell with covid-19 symptoms
- unable to work due to childcare arrangements
- unable to work for any other COVID-19 related reason
- Check industry guidance on safe work, the Ministry of Health website and covid19.govt.nz
- Identify and purchase required PPE
- Make a hygiene plan including a cleaning and sanitising schedule
- Consider what daily health checks will be performed, eg taking temperatures
- Check your skills and experience with the returning workforce are adequate
- Prepare any health and safety training required e.g. wearing/disposal of PPE, cleaning, return to work refreshers on high risk tasks
- Decide how you will communicate instructions and processes to workers
- Consider methods for worker travel that maintain physical distance (1 metre in workplace, 2 metres outside the workplace).
- Create a contact tracing register
- Consider how separation will occur, for example, dividing the workplace into zones, staggering shifts and breaks, putting up barriers
- Consider business continuity if any self-isolation is required due to COVID contact
- Conduct pre-work workplace checks e.g, air quality checks, equipment servicing
- Designate responsibilities for monitoring these measures, for example:
- managing stock of PPE and hygiene goods
- maintaining the contract tracing register
- auditing of the cleaning schedule
- keeping up to date with changes and industry recommendations
- Assess and implement additional health and safety controls needed
- Prepare a declaration for workers confirming their disclosure of key information to you, and requiring their compliance with your processes as well as the governments requirements outside the workplace.
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.