COVID-19 health and safety obligations

While infectious diseases are not a unique risk to the workplace, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) should be taking sensible, measured steps to respond to, and manage, the risk to workers and others in the workplace. Under New Zealand’s health and safety legislation, PCBUs owe a primary duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety of workers and others in the workplace or affected by its work.

Eliminating or minimising the exposure of workers to coronavirus while at work not only makes commercial sense but is part of a PCBU’s obligations. While the extent of the COVID-19 risk varies with the nature of the business, there are numerous practical steps PCBUs can take to meet their obligations.

Practical steps to manage coronavirus exposure risks

  1. Regularly review policies for infectious disease control including when workers should not attend work. Follow the Ministry of Health guidance for infectious disease prevention and control in the workplace.
  2. Promote good hygiene practices to minimise the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace.
  3. Consider knock-on supply chain risks that may impact health and safety, and anticipate shortages in critical health and safety gear (e.g. personal protective equipment).
  4. Consider the possible health and safety consequences that might occur as a result of process changes necessary because of coronavirus-caused shortages in staff or resources.
  5. Consider ways to minimise worker exposure to infectious diseases, such as eliminating or minimising international travel in accordance with guidance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Health.
  6. Keep lines of communication open with suppliers and contractors and ensure that coronavirus-related disruption does not impact on the requirement to consult, co-ordinate and co-operate on health and safety matters with other PCBUs.

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