We now know the exact date that we will reduce to COVID-19 Alert Level 3.
This afternoon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Aotearoa would move to Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April. One week from today. We will be at Alert Level 3 for two weeks, at which point the government will review their position.
Read the government’s guidance on what Alert Level 3 means
Health and safety standards and protocols
We must start planning for how we return to work safely. New industry health and safety standards and protocols for operating under COVID-19 alert levels have been developed and released by Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) and partner groups.
View the standards and protocols
The protocols have a focus on construction-related activity (be that horizontal, vertical or residential); however, they provide an appropriate framework for any site-based work.
Where staff are returning to the office (only where it is essential) the protocols still provide an excellent framework, recognising that not all elements will be directly applicable.
In my opinion, using a consistent framework across your operations will ensure clarity for your staff. Having different sets of rules for different situations is a recipe for confusion.
In a crisis consistency and clarity are critical.
If you are working in an office-based environment (rather than site-based work) here are a few of the things you should think about.
First and foremost
Where continuing to work from home isn’t possible, your business can reopen, but you must comply with health and safety requirements around physical distancing and contactless engagement with clients.
Businesses cannot offer services which involve face-to-face contact or sustained close contact.
Physical distancing remains critical
Physical distancing is about keeping a safe distance from others; this means remaining two metres away from other people at all times.
This is important to help protect us from COVID-19, which spreads via droplets from coughing and sneezing.
You will need a plan
- Your plan must detail the steps you will take to mitigate the risk presented by COVID-19 in your workplace
- Ensure you communicate your plan to your staff before they start work
Before your staff come to work
- Your team should follow the personal health flowchart to confirm they are safe to go to work. Refer to the health flowchart in the protocols
- Understand how your staff will get to work and whether they can maintain physical distancing
- If they are in a company vehicle, it should strictly be one person per vehicle. When using a vehicle, it should be cleaned following the cleaning guide. Refer to the cleaning guide in the protocols
In the office
- First and foremost, only essential personnel should be in the office; employees should work remotely where possible
- Vulnerable people must stay at home. Here’s more guidance on vulnerable people
- Maintain a daily register of staff entering and leaving your offices along with a health declaration. See an example sign-in register in the protocols. If you are using an electronic sign in it must be sanitised between each use
- Have signage reminding workers of physical distancing and hygiene requirements. See example signage in the protocols
- All work should be done in a way to maintain physical distancing. If you can’t maintain physical distancing, as a general rule, don’t do it
- Keep team sizes as small as possible and record who is each team. Explore limiting interactions between floors, and the potential for split shifts. This is all about staff reducing exposure
- Be aware and have a plan for pinch points where people may come into close contact (lifts, stairwells, hallways)
- If you have meetings, only have the necessary participants and ensure you maintain physical distancing at all times. Use videoconferencing wherever possible
Travel and transport
- Travel is still restricted and is only allowed for permitted movement in your local area, such as going to work
- Public transport will still be available. You can use it to travel to work but be aware there will be limited capacity. You should sit two metres away from other people on public transport
- Work travel between regions is only allowed for workers travelling to do essential work
- If staff are in a company vehicle, it should strictly be one person per vehicle. The vehicle should be cleaned following use, in line with the cleaning guide in the protocols
- Your staff should sanitise their hands with hand sanitiser or soap and running water before coming into the office. Set up a specific place to do this
- Encourage staff to sanitise or wash their hands regularly
- All eating and drinking utensils to be cleaned by the user
In general, most workers will not require PPE to stay safe at work. Incorrectly used PPE can create more risk. Proper hygiene measures like handwashing with soap and water, physical distancing, sneeze and cough etiquette, and wiping down surfaces is the best defence against COVID-19.
Consider your work environment and what is frequently used and touched. The virus can be spread from person to person or by touching unclean equipment or surfaces. To stop the spread, focus efforts on cleaning areas where the virus is more likely to spread, such as the kitchen and toilets.
Frequent internal touchpoints to be aware of could include:
- Coffee machines and water fountains.
- Common pens (such as for a sign-in sheet).
- Doors and door handles.
- High-touch public surfaces such as stairwell handrails, door handles, tabletops, lift buttons, microwaves and other kitchen surfaces.
- Screens and tables should be wiped after use, as should electronic devices, photocopiers, digital check-in scanners and computers.
- Wash items such as towels, tea towels and other fabrics using a hot wash and dry thoroughly outside or with a dryer.
For more information, see the cleaning guide in the protocols
Visitors and deliveries
Wherever possible, strictly limit visitors to your offices. Ideally, this should only be for essential deliveries.
- Have one staff member designated for these interactions
- Keep any engagement as brief as possible, always maintaining physical distancing
- Ensure deliveries are contactless (ask for paperwork to be emailed). When retrieving delivered goods consider using gloves or wash your hands before and after handling any items
This is a simplified list of things you should consider in an office-based environment.
My view is whether you are on a site, or in the office, you should be working in line with the protocols
If we all support and comply with the protocols, we can avoid returning to Alert Level 4 and give ourselves the best chance of moving back to Alert Levels 2 and 1 as soon as possible.