Health & Safety Under Level Three

The NZ government has announced a return to level three for businesses who are able to do so safely.

In most cases, this means contact-free, but for some businesses who are able to maintain physical distancing between employees, that may mean reopening your workplace.

There are a number of key health & safety considerations that you must evaluate and put into place before employees can safely return to work at commercial premises. Wherever possible, employees should work remotely during Level Three.

Please note also that employees must have been trained in all aspects of workplace safety before they reenter the premises.

Here are the primary considerations for employers reopening a place of work:

  • Full risk assessment to be carried out and documented. This should include:
  • Workspace cleaning and disinfectant protocols.
  • Workstation distance.
  • Entrance and exit hygiene and traffic protocols to ensure all sanitising is taken place and that distancing protocols are enabled.
  • Number of employees on-site to be limited at all times, with team crossover protocols clearly in place.

Have teams stay in bubbles

The key to managing the spread of COVID-19 has been to enable a very swift lockdown of any infection. As the country emerges into level three, the nature of the bubbles will change for those who are working – but it is very important that bubble protocol is still in place as much as possible – to enable swift contact tracing.

All employees must be aware that they need to stay within their team bubble – and to maintain distancing measures at the workplace.
This means that all employees on-site will need to work within micro teams – and to ensure hygiene standards are upheld by all. These standards will need to be established (or approved) by the business owner – as the person responsible for the welfare & safety of all employees.

You may find the shift splitting enables a better workflow – with smaller teams working in rotation, but do ensure that full disinfection is carried out in between teams if the equipment is to be handled by more than one person.

Pre-Return to Work Health Checks

Any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be required to get a test. These are available all around the country with no requirement for a medical referral. Everyone showing any symptom of COVID-19 is encouraged to go for the test.
Reporting Systems for Symptoms Developed after Returning to Work

Any employee developing symptoms of any kind after the return to work must follow a standard process to notify the business owner or designated manager. The entire team bubble needs to be isolated until tests can be conducted and the results returned (usually within 24 hours). A positive test will mean that the entire team in the bubble concerned will have to wait 14 days in isolation before returning to work. The department of health will advise their protocols should this occur, but a full contact register will be required from the employer.

When in doubt, the person in charge on-site MUST call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.

Maintain a Contact Register

Every employee in your place of employment will be required to maintain a full and complete register of every contact made to enable fast contact tracing. It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure this is done. To contact track on a daily basis is the most effective way of managing contact lists.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

In most cases, high levels of hygiene, physical distancing and physical barriers (contact-free delivery management for example), will be sufficient. If your employees are unable to manage distancing and are not essential workers, they should not be returning to work.

Employers will need to ensure however that employees are clear about hand hygiene standards and that they adhere to them, plus exit and entrance sanitisation protocols.

Other safety considerations

Standard safety protocols outside of COVID-19 are still a primary concern for the employer. Make sure that you are not introducing other safety risks in changing the workplace to allow for workstation distance. Also, consider any safety risks due to reduced team sizes. As always, safety must come first in every workplace. If you are unable to operate your business safely – with reduced numbers of employees on-site, each distanced from the others, you may not restart your operation.