COVID-19: Impact on Health and Safety in the Workplace

In an industry like ours where people work on site and carry out field-based activities, there’s always an element of risk to what we do: working at height, managing traffic while work takes place, working in confined spaces, to name a few. While the additional risks brought about by COVID-19 have forced us to introduce extra health & safety measures such as physical distancing and best-practice hygiene, as an industry we were well prepared. Health & safety is always our top priority. 

If you’d asked me before Christmas what the chances would be of a lock-down of the New Zealand economy from a virus, I’d probably have said very unlikely. As a country, we’ve already been through SARS, MERS, Bird-Flu, Swine-Flu and H1N1 in the last decade or so without any material impact on our nation’s health or economic outlook. 

But now we find ourselves experiencing a one-in-100-year-event, and the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease COVID-19 has been a huge wake-up call for all organisations and people in New Zealand. In some ways, it’s like conversations about the risk of a fatality in the workplace - the chances of it happening are rare, but it can (and does) happen.


WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF H&S IN THE WORKPLACE?

In an industry like ours where people work on site and carry out field-based activities, there’s always an element of risk to what we do: working at height, managing traffic while work takes place, working in confined spaces, to name a few. While the additional risks brought about by COVID-19 have forced us to introduce extra health & safety measures such as physical distancing and best-practice hygiene, as an industry we were well prepared. Health & safety is always our top priority. 

Organisations that already had robust business continuity and contingency plans, a strong health and safety culture, good communication channels and a senior leadership team that was decisive, agile, and accepting of the situation are probably doing okay. 

However, it’s hard to see the silver lining when everyone is feeling the affects of this global pandemic to some degree. 

Being well prepared is crucial for the survival of any organisation. The lessons we have learned so far is that having a strong Business Continuity Plan, leaders whose primary focus is on the wellbeing of their employees and who work together without question for the health and safety of their people, are likely to experience a swift recovery to any potentially catastrophic event; it’s the people and the planning that get you through the tough times.

We’ve already seen some of the big players in our country taking proactive steps to ensure work is done safely with as little risk as possible from COVID-19. Examples include Waka Kotahi – NZ Transport Agency, the Construction Industry and WorkSafe NZ. These organisations have quickly set the standard for returning to work under COVID-19.

WHERE TO LOOK

Information on transitioning from Alert Level 4 to Level 3 can be found on the WorkSafe website while the Government COVID-19 website provides up-to-the-minute requirements. 

Highly valuable industry-specific information can be found on the Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ) website.

WSP SERVICES

The requirements regarding the different COVID-19 Alert Levels can be tricky to interpret, with changes and clarifications happening almost daily. 

WSP can support clients to navigate these complexities. We have teams of highly skilled professionals whose job it is to unravel the requirements and help our clients successfully navigate the ever-changing tide of health and safety challenges.

COVID-19 health and safety services we offer include pandemic related policy and procedure development, business continuity planning, health and safety systems and management plans, risk assessments and communication planning. 

We also support the development of workplace and project safety plans to meet WorkSafe, Construction, Waka Kotahi – NZ Transport Agency or other client requirements.

Our Occupational Hygiene service offers COVID-19 hygiene and re-occupation advice, bio-hazard assessments and decontamination response plans.

HOW CAN WE HELP? 

WSP is focused on supporting our clients to control the spread of COVID-19, maintain business continuity and ensure the health and safety of our communities, employees, colleagues, friends and families. 

Our priority, like yours, is to keep everyone safe. 

Let us help you navigate your business through each step of the Government’s COVID-19 alert levels to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees. 

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