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COVID Alert Levels 2 and 3 – What they mean for consulting and engineering businesses
Businesses should be complying with the relevant restrictions as Auckland continues life under COVID Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country is at Alert Level 2 until at least Wednesday 26 August 2020.
Displaying a QR code poster
Under both Alert Levels 2 and 3, all businesses and services are required to display the official NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters in a prominent place at or near the main entrances to each of their premises.
The rules for displaying the poster and creating your poster are available from the Ministry of Health website.
Auckland – Alert Level Three
Many Auckland businesses in our sector remain on the worksite and should be complying with health and hygiene protocols to prevent the transmission of COVID-19
Operating under Alert Level 3 requires physical distancing, good hygiene and cleaning practices.
Health and safety standards and protocols
Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) has developed industry health and safety standards and protocols for operating under COVID-19 Alert Levels. View the Alert Level 2 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.
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.
COVID-19 safety plan
Under Alert Level 3, a business must have a COVID-19 safety plan that identifies and mitigates the risks associated with carrying out contract work.
- Have you read and understood the Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) standards and protocols?
- Have you reviewed your COVID-19 safety plan? The COVID-19 safety plan should sit alongside other H&S plans you have in operation, and ensure the plans don't contradict each other
- Have all employees read and understood your COVID-19 safety plan?
- Do your employees have access to the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)?
- All businesses and contractors should consult with workers on an ongoing basis to find out what is working well, what isn't and develop a response to anything thing that requires changing. Engaging with workers and assessing risks and developing responses is an essential part of a business's health and safety practice. How are you evaluating the COVID-19 safety plan?
- Workers who are feeling unwell or suffering symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 MUST NOT come into contact with other workers until they are well or have been tested and cleared from having COVID-19. Does your business have a system in place to track the health of its workers?
- Businesses must develop a plan that will allow contact tracing in the event a worker is exposed to a person who is suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19. Registers must be kept of all people that workers have contact with during the day. Does your business have a register in place, and is it collecting the required information?
Contractors health and safety plan
Under Alert Level 3, your business is required to have a written COVID-19 safety plan in place to identify and mitigate the risks associated with carrying out the contract works. The Principal, Contractor and Engineer should collaborate, with input from subcontractors when required, to determine the safest way to return to the worksite while achieving the government's health objectives under Alert Level 3.
- Has the Contractor prepared a site-specific COVID-19 safety plan (SSSP)?
- Has the Contractor submitted the SSSP to the Engineer?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the Engineer, the Principal and the Contractor share health and safety duties. One of those duties is for the Engineer to 'consult, cooperate and coordinate' with the Contractor to avoid any potential gaps in managing the spread of COVID-19 and to help prevent businesses from failing to carry out their health and safety duties.
- Where to the reasonable extent of the Engineer's expertise and experience, has the Engineer commented on the Contractor's SSSP?
- Has the Principal reviewed the Contractor's health and safety plan?
Visiting a site
Under the Health and Safety Act 2015, a PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees at work. A consultant who visits a worksite must be aware of their health and safety obligations under Alert Level 3, along with the employer's and the Contractor's health and safety plans.
- In addition to the normal PPE a consultant is required to wear on-site, does the Contractor require any additional PPE?
- Has the consultant read and understood the Contractor's SSSP before visiting the site?
- Does the consultant understand the Contractor's social distancing requirements, including when using the site's facilities and amenities?
- What system does the Contractor have in place to facilitate contact tracing by recording the identity of all workers on site and who they come into contact with?
- Is the consultant aware of the need to keep a register of all people that they have come into contact with while carrying out a site visit?
- Has the consultant recorded what areas they have visited on the site, including taking photographs of any deterioration of the contract works that are readily visible?
- Has the consultant observed any health and safety issues and if so, have they been reported to the Contractor? If the consultant feels unsafe on-site, then they are to leave immediately and report their concerns to both the Contractor and their Employer
In addition to the CHASNZ standard and protocols, Worksafe has examples that will help increase physical space between people to avoid spreading COVID-19.
The rest of New Zealand - Alert Level 2
At Alert Level 2, businesses should maintain hygiene measures, including:
- physical distancing
- handwashing, and
- regularly cleaning surfaces
Follow these physical distancing rules:
- Keep your distance when out and about (ideally two metres)
- One metre from others in most other environments, unless there are mitigation measures
- Take extra care if you interact with people you do not know
This is important to help protect us from COVID-19, which spreads via droplets from coughing and sneezing.
All businesses are encouraged to use alternative ways of working if possible, meaning staff should continue to work from home where it's practical. And importantly, if workers are unwell, they must stay home.
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
- 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
- When using a company vehicle, it should be cleaned following the cleaning guide. Refer to the cleaning guide in the protocols
In the office
Remember, COVID-19 is still out there, so play it safe.
- Maintain a daily register of staff entering and leaving your offices along with a health declaration. See an example sign-in log 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
At Alert Level 2, businesses can have clients on their premises if they can meet public health requirements. This means companies should:
- Have proper contact registers, or contact tracing records, in place to record everyone who you interact with on your premises
- Maintain physical distancing of one metre between staff and clients, or two metres if it is not possible to keep contact tracing records
- Not have groups larger than 10 people
- Maintain a two-hour time limit for customers to be on your premises
Travel and transport
You can travel around the country if you follow proper personal health measures. You will need to keep records of what travel services you use and keep track of who you have been in contact with. You should keep your distance from groups of people you don't know. You should minimise the number of places you stop on the way to your destination.
- Try to limit taking public transport or use at off-peak times
- Avoid sitting next to someone you don't know or standing
- If you're flying or taking other forms of transport that involve bookings, follow the physical distancing instructions from your transport operators
- You must not travel if you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, awaiting a test, or if you need to self-isolate
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
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands
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. You should also reduce the number of shared surfaces, and regularly disinfect them.
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
There's more information on the government's COVID-19 website; businesses — rules for operating under:
Implementing or maintaining COVID-19 controls remains vital for the health and safety of workers and other people.
Here are some helpful signage downloads that we are using in ACE New Zealand's Wellington office:
Health entrance poster (PDF 30KB)
Hygiene entrance poster (PDF 45KB)
Response plan (PDF 100KB)
Stairwell going down (jpg 1.1MB)
Lift poster maximum of 4 occupants (jpg 1.3MB)
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 higher alert levels and give ourselves the best chance of moving back to Alert Level 1 as soon as possible.