*Updated March 20, 2020
The number of Coronavirus related enquiries from organisations around NZ has continued to grow - so we thought it best to give you some direction.
If you are wondering what you should be putting into place at your workplace…this should help...
Here is a summary of the most common tips for Employers to start implementing now:
Actively encourage Employees to stay home at the first signs of illness and not to return until they are free of symptoms for at least 24hrs
- Ensure Employees returning from overseas are complying with self-isolation requirements, and are set up to work from home if possible.
- Cancel all overseas travel.
- Provide tissues and no-touch bins for Employees. The virus is spread through droplets spread by coughing and sneezing onto people and onto surfaces which people touch, so educate on cough and sneeze etiquette (into the elbow or tissue).
- Provide plenty of soap, water and sanitizer at all work locations and instruct employees to clean their hands often (for at least 20 sec and dry them well).
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace (workstations, countertops, phones, doorknobs). Provide disposable wipes for Employees to wipe down surfaces before use.
- Encourage social distancing by staying at least 1m apart from others.
- Cancel all mass gatherings of 100 or more people (indoors) and 500 or more (outdoors). Assess the risks of any other gatherings of smaller sizes and consider alternative options if social distancing may not be possible.
You also need to think about the specific work your Employees are doing, the environments they are going into, or equipment that your Employees may be using…
To give you an idea of what we mean, here at OSHbox we have already made a couple of minor changes due to the risks we face in different roles:
- Our consultants meet the majority of our clients face-to-face, so to minimize exposure, we now ask at the time of booking that if the person we are meeting with becomes unwell or shows cold/flu symptoms, that we will move to hold a video-conference instead. This will also hopefully mean we avoid higher exposure to the common colds and flu’s during the colder months.
- We also shake many hands during the working day, and due to how the virus spreads, we have decided to avoid shaking hands. So please don’t be offended if we don’t offer out our hand or politely decline yours.
- To maintain social distancing, we remain at least 1m away from clients during consultations and site inspections. Meetings are held in open spaces, avoiding small meeting rooms.
- Our office is cleaned weekly, but we have decided to increase this and use disposable wipes to clean our frequently touched surfaces at the end of every day.
- Most of the team are able to work remotely already, but we have identified a case where that may not be possible at the moment. So we are currently working on a plan to allow operations to continue for all the team, if we are required to work in isolation.
And what additional planning should you also be doing?
- Start a contingency and continuity plan - put together your plan for how you will respond to various levels of severity. Include your Employees in discussions at this planning stage.
- Prepare for possible increased absences from work - can you cross-train Employees to cover various roles? Would you need to change the operations of the business?
- Look at ways you could become a flexible worksite - can Employees work from home? Could you use videoconferencing rather than face-to-face? What security do you have for unsecured internet connections?
- Set up a decision-making plan - at what point do you alter operations? Who makes those decisions? What are the triggers? How will this be communicated with Employees, Contractors, Customers etc?
- Take advice from trusted sources such as your Bank or Accountant. Apply for assistance such as wage subsidies and leave payments as soon as it becomes applicable to you.
And…ensure you keep up to date with the daily information available by the Ministry of Health.
For those of you who read our previous newsletters, we included links to the WorkSafe and Ministry of Health websites which both have information for Employers and workplaces. Since then, the new Covid19.govt.nz website has launched, which brings together all relevant information from reliable sources...check it out.
Remember to prepare - not panic.