There is an important update on the health and safety requirements in the construction sector we wish to share with you if you have not yet been updated. Over the last few weeks, the situation with Covid-19 in New Zealand has noticeably improved. However, it is too soon to celebrate, and there is no room for complacency as we will still be under Covid-19 Alert Level 2, starting this Thursday 14 May 2020. It will remain critical, perhaps more than ever, for everyone in the construction industry to take all necessary steps to keep the virus under control until we are down to Alert Level 1.
Needless to say, your legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (the “HSWA”) to provide a safe working environment for your employees continues to apply.
For example, here is a summary of guidelines suggested by Master Builder:
1. All site toilets, lunch rooms, offices, door handles, light switches etc to be cleaned DAILY.
2. All people entering the site need to wash their hands, following best practice.
3. Everyone entering the site will need to:
(a) sign in;
(b) declare their recent travel history;
(c) confirm that they feel healthy;
(d) wash their hands each time they enter the site;
(e) deliveries must be left at the designated area clearly signposted at the entrance to the building site;
(f) no one enters the site unless they have permission.
4. Anyone who has travelled overseas in the last two weeks or have close family who have travelled recently, must notify the head contractor and self-isolate.
5. Everyone is to keep 2 m distance from each other and no hand shaking or close contact.
6. Limit use of lunch rooms and smoko areas. We encourage people to separate into small groups, preferably in open air.
7. Limit the use of shared objects and spaces such as pens and tools.
8. External meetings to be essential meetings only, and if so limited to XX* persons max.
9. Internal meetings to be restricted to XX* persons max.
10. Critical external visitors to site only, such as an engineer to sign off a concrete pour or a Council inspection.
11. Domestic travel is restricted for essential purposes only. No international travel is recommended.
12. Consider the use of public transport and use of shared facilities such as e-scooters, and insert your company's policy.
13. No social events until further notice, we encourage everyone to stay away from public events.
14. Break up site offices into different areas to mitigate the risk.
15. Everyone on site must maintain a high awareness of unwell people and ensure people are complying with the rules.
16. If you are feeling unwell you do not come to work. Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Once your fever is gone for a day, you're no longer contagious and can return to work.
*XX = consider what is appropriate for your business and insert your decision.
On top of our summary, Construction Health and Safety New Zealand and Construction Sector Accord has now quite helpfully put together a series of standards setting out specific health and safety requirements to be met until we reach Alert Level 1.
The requirements set out in the standards are a bare minimum, and additional measures may be necessary depending on challenges and circumstances specific to your business. If you are a Person Conducting Business or Undertaking as defined in the HSWA, you are legally obliged to ensure that the necessary workplace protections for your staff and others are in place.
If you have not already established a robust protocol to keep the virus under control at your workplace, or are looking to improve yours against a benchmark, these standards will be a good place to start. Please spend whatever time is necessary to revise the minimum standards, and also invite everyone else in your workplace from top to bottom, including contractors, to develop familiarity with these standards as well, as required under the HSWA.
We suggest that a protocol adopted by your company is circulated to everyone by email, together with additional guidelines, and ask that they confirm having spent time reading those materials by reply. It is a requirement that the protocols and guidelines are made known to all workers, and we consider that it is important for you to be seen meeting the requirements proactively as well.
If you have any questions on the requirements, or if we can be of any assistance in establishing your own site specific health and safety protocol, please do not hesitate to contact us directly to organise an appointment for a telephone/video conference.
Please direct any enquiries to:
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© McVeagh Fleming 2020
This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.