WorkSafe is aware that Covid-19 is creating supply issues for some forms of PPE, including for workers
WorkSafe NZ – workplace preparedness for novel coronavirus (Covid-19)
WorkSafe New Zealand has released guidelines for businesses regarding health and safety and the risks emerging as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Guidance and support for the public from government sources on the response to Covid-19 is available in one place on the govt.nz website to help people stay informed and answer any questions or concerns they may have.
Information includes Ministry of Health Covid-19 information, and its guidance on infectious disease prevention and control for workplaces, and guidance for employers and employees around supporting workers to protect and, where necessary, isolate themselves from others.
WorkSafe says the emergence of Covid-19 across the globe has created a new work health and safety risk that businesses need to manage. It expects all businesses to follow the latest Ministry of Health advice about preventing Covid-19 and to promote good hygiene practices at work, and to identify and manage any emerging risks brought about by the Covid-19 situation. For example, changes in consumer demand may impact worker health and safety, and supply issues for worker personal protective equipment (PPE).
WorkSafe also expects workers to take care of their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others, while at work. This means following and cooperating with any reasonable health and safety instructions, policies and procedures they’re given.
How WorkSafe is responding to Covid-19
As a regulator, WorkSafe says it has to make choices about what it does and how it does it. Right now, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, it is prioritising support for businesses to understand how to manage this new work health and safety risk. This includes working with other agencies to make sure businesses can access the latest information about Covid-19. WorkSafe is not prioritising investigations about Covid-19 at this time.
WorkSafe says if a business has a worker who is diagnosed with Covid-19, they don’t need to notify them. This is because a medical officer of health will make the notification to WorkSafe if needed.
Managing supply issues for PPE
WorkSafe is aware that Covid-19 is creating supply issues for some forms of PPE, including for workers, and says PPE should always be the last resort when providing protection from harm for workers. More effective controls should be used first, starting with elimination, then minimisation by using substitution, isolation and engineering controls. If some risk still remains, administrative controls can be applied and, lastly, PPE can be used.
Where there is a legal requirement to use a specific type of PPE, WorkSafe says businesses must continue to meet that requirement.
“Businesses could take this opportunity to re-assess their control measures and look at what other reasonably practicable control measures might be available that do not reply on PPE,” WorkSafe says.
For example: isolate any work activity that creates dust or fumes so fewer workers are affected by the work (so fewer people require PPE); consider alternative types of PPE that provide similar or better protection (this may mean checking gear provided from new sources is appropriate and fits properly); or, if no alternative controls are available and a business cannot source appropriate PPE, they may need to consider stopping that activity until the risks can be properly controlled again.