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Health & Safety at Alert Level 3

Health and Safety at Level 3: Things to consider when NZ moves to Level 3.

Yesterday the Government provided us with more detail about what Alert Level 3 will look like for businesses and advised businesses to start to think about how they could work safely at Alert Level 3. (Keeping in mind that a date for Level 3 has not been announced).

The COVID-19 website was updated and Level 3 details provided here: https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/alert-level-3/

The Government stated that a Self-Accreditation Scheme will be available for businesses and that this will help businesses to formulate a plan for Level 3. They have also announced that more details about managing your workplace at Level 3 will be available on Monday the 20th of April. But what can you do while you wait?

Every business will be different and have individual needs to address. It may be overwhelming at first as you try to work out where to start.

As a suggestion, picture your workplace, or print a map of it – in your mind walk through it, think about the physical areas or tasks that will require a change in process or increased protection of workers? Make a list of each point or process and then establish what solutions are required.

Here are some safety aspects to consider, keeping in mind that each of these will not apply to all workplaces and that these points are to help prompt you to consider the issues that may arise in your business:

Manual handling: if work usually requires a two person lift (or more), what alternatives are available? Can workers use mechanical aids, trolleys or a forklift?

Shared equipment or mobile plant: what equipment is shared by workers? How will this be sanitized between workers? Consider photocopiers, printers, forklifts, machinery, gantry, lock out tag out equipment and tools. Can workers have their own equipment? Ensure workers all have their own pen- even for signing for deliveries.

Touch points and door handles: increase the cleaning of touch points and door handles. Have hand sanitizer available leading into these points. Consider workplace entry points. Create a checklist and a timetable and ensure these are cleaned throughout the day.

Pedestrian flow: consider the movement of pedestrians through your workplace. Can you put arrows on walkways to reduce pedestrians walking past each other? Can you have pedestrians all walk through your work place in one direction (our local supermarket has put arrows down the aisles). If this is not possible, how else could the proximity of pedestrians be managed? Can they call out to each other when walking into or down narrow areas, or give way at key points or intersections?

No Shared PPE: workers usually have their own PPE but on rare occasion workplaces have shared PPE for chemicals (or even for washing dishes). Consider if your workplace has any shared PPE and replace this with individual supplies.

Also consider what extra PPE you might need during this period.

Use of amenities (toilets, kitchens and change rooms): these areas are often smaller in size, consider how you can coordinate a one at a time policy to toilets and whether you need to stagger morning tea and lunch breaks so that staff can observe the 2 metre distance.

Small change rooms must also be considered, stagger the entrance of workers in to these spaces dependent on the size of the room.

Another aspect to consider is the use of plates and utensils, have a rule that these go straight in the dishwasher and it is put on its maximum hot wash each day. If this is not possible consider disposable utensils and plates during this time. Remind workers not to share food. Also consider the shared use of milk, coffee and tea at this time, it is recommended that this stops.

Separating workers: while it is important that the people who can work from home do, this is not always possible for all businesses. In Australia some essential businesses that have multiple staff in open plan areas (who need to be at work some of the time) are alternating workers between working from home and days at work. For example this week you work from home Mon, Weds and Fri and next week Tues and Thurs- and the people who share your office space do the opposite. There would of course need to be thorough daily cleaning taking place during this time. Keep in mind the advice that there is to be no face to face contact.

Also consider how else you can separate staff- are there meeting rooms that could be used as offices, unused buildings for workshops?

Production facilities and workshops could also consider commencing shift work (in consultation with workers) so that there are less staff onsite and the 2 metre distances can be achieved. Or moving workstations to observe the 2 metre guidelines.

You may also need to consider production lines, can you ensure a 2 metre distance between workers? Some businesses may need to isolate workers using shields and screens.

When separating workers ensure that anyone carrying out hazardous work is not isolated during this time- ensure that emergency procures can be adhered to.

Communal Travel: remind workers to not share vehicles (unless they share a bubble).

Other people entering your business: do you have customers, sales representatives, contractors entering your premises? Can this continue in level 3? Remember the Level 3 Alert calls for no face to face contact.

Can you sell your products online? How else could you manage this? Contactless delivery, signage, restricted entry (NO ENTRY for certain people during this time). Think about this aspect in regards to your specific business. How will you protect your workers from people entering the workplace and how will you protect customers? And how will you comply with the required 2 metre distance.

Keep a record of who enters your business and when, this will be helpful if contract tracing is required.

Going offsite: if you carry out work at various locations e.g. on construction sites, private premises (houses), or working as a contractor- how will you protect yourself and others? If your workers are going offsite to carry out work what processes do you have in place for them and for your clients? Let them know if they don’t feel safe and protected they need to stop and call you immediately.

Again, keep a record of where you or your workers go and when, this will be helpful if contract tracing is required.

What will you do if a worker gets sick? Ensure you have procedures in place for what workers should do if they fall sick (or even if someone in their bubble is sick). Make sure these procedures are communicated to workers.

Document and Communicate: Once you have worked through this process, consider how the controls will be communicated with workers. You will need to ensure that the controls are clearly communicated and understood.

If you have any questions regarding this blog please feel free to email or call Lee Powell, H&S Consultant, HR Connect Ltd.

Phone: 0275353625

Email: lee@hrconnect.co.nz

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