Implementing or maintaining infectious disease controls is remains vital for the health and safety of workers and other people regardless of the Alert Level.

We have guidance for businesses and organisations as a series of questions and answers that you can go to directly (see navigation bar to the right).

Keeping your workers and other people safe from COVID-19

It is important that businesses and organisations continue thinking about how to work differently to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

With changes to New Zealand’s Alert Levels, now is a good time to revisit the approach you already have in place.

The current COVID-19 Public Health Response Order sets the public health requirements for managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It identifies the controls you need to use to minimise the risk for your workers, volunteers, and other people affected by the work, such as customers.

The controls you need to put in place will depend on the Alert Level your geographical area is subject to.

All businesses and organisations must meet the Order’s general requirements for these controls. There are also specific requirements for particular types of work. If there’s a difference between the specific requirements and the general requirements applying to your work, you must comply with the specific requirements.

More information about the Order’s requirements is available at Alert Level 2 Public Health Requirements – what you need to know.

You should also follow the Ministry of Health’s public health guidance on good hygiene and cleaning practices.(external link)

When thinking about what working at a new Alert Level means for how you operate, you will need to consider how you will implement the Order’s public health requirements. Remember that you must also continue to meet the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) requirements.

What should I be thinking about?

We’ve identified seven key areas all businesses and organisations should think about when planning their approach to operating at a new Alert Level.

Your industry may have prepared guidance to help you operate safely– check with your industry organisation.

It’s important that you discuss your approach to operating safely  with your workers and their representatives. Your approach will depend on what the Alert Level is for your region. We recommend you talk with workers about which controls you’ll use at that level and how this may differ from what you were doing during the your region’s previous level. This means your workers will understand how you intend to manage work safely and what they need to do to help. Think about what processes you might put in place to update and implement suggestions from workers and their representatives.

We recommend you document your approach so it can be shared with others, including customers or clients. This will also make it easier to regularly review and update your approach. You may like to use our template to document your thinking.

COVID-19 safety plan template for operating at Alert Level 2 - PDF version (PDF 76 KB)
COVID-19 safety plan template for operating at Alert Level 2 - Word version (DOCX 43 KB)

Note: the questions and prompts are general and apply for all businesses. You may also need to consider other things depending on your circumstances and the nature of your business.

How will you manage the risks of restarting part or all of your operations?

The extent to which businesses and organisations maintained normal operations at previous Alert Levels will have varied greatly depending on the nature of the work. Whatever your circumstances, a change in Alert Level means you need to think about the risks of operating in new ways.

If your region is moving Alert Levels this may include having some or all of your workers back at the premises, or travelling between sites, or working with equipment and machinery that’s not been used for a while.

Key things to consider include:

  • Do you have the right people with the right skills to operate safely? This could be affected by some workers being unavailable to work or the need for different team rostering arrangements.
  • Do you need to clean or ensure appropriate hygiene arrangements before occupying work spaces? What additional cleaning and hygiene practices might you need to maintain at the new Alert Level?
  • Is maintenance required for machinery and tools that haven’t been used for a while? For example, vehicles’ warrants of fitness may have expired, or equipment may require a new compliance certificate or servicing.
  • When did you last have your ventilation system or air-conditioning checked? Are you confident that it is working efficiently? Now is a good time to schedule cleaning and maintenance.
  • What else needs to be done?

You might not identify anything that needs to be addressed, but it’s important your workers can see that you’ve thought this through. Talk about it with them – they may think of something you’ve overlooked.

Links to more information:

Preventing Legionnaires disease from cooling towers and evaporative condensers

COVID-19 gudiance - Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations(external link)

Reopening a food business checklist - Ministry for Primary Industries (PDF)(external link)

COVID-19 - Hazardous substances and PECPR  - WorkSafe 

Hazardous Substances - WorkSafe

How will you ensure all workers are able to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?

You need to make sure your workers (including volunteers) have access to the right information about keeping themselves well. This will mean they’re able to maintain good work and hygiene practices. Don’t assume your workers will just know how to do this. Make sure they have, or know where to get official information. (external link)

Provide your workers with guidance on keeping well while travelling between home and work. Some PCBUs may choose to make travel arrangements to support their workers to stay well.

You may also like to consider:

  • providing information sheets and posters
  • discussing physical distancing and hygiene in team meetings (keeping in mind the need to continue physical distancing)
  • using virtual meeting technology
  • reviewing WorkSafe and Ministry of Health guidance regularly and updating your internal advice as needed
  • refreshing information regularly to keep safe practices front of mind.

Your workers will be able to suggest effective ways to share information with them. This is particularly important if you have workers for whom English isn’t their first language. 

Links to more information:

Ministry of Health - COVID-19 latest updates, information and advice(external link)

WorkSafe - COVID-19 advice and guidance 

COVID-19 - Advice for busineses(external link)

Ministry of Transport - COVID-19 information(external link)

How will you gather information on your workers’ wellness to ensure they are safe and well to work?

 We need to continue to be vigilant about the possibility of COVID-19 transmission at work. You need to ensure workers who are unwell or suffering from symtoms consistent with COVID-19(external link) don’t come into contact with other workers or customers/clients. If workers have COVID-like symptoms, they shouldn’t come back to work until they have either recovered or have been tested and cleared from having COVID-19 and are no longer symptomatic. 

Workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are able to return to work, without risk to others, when they’ve been cleared from isolation. The criteria for being released from isolation depend on the circumstances, such as whether the person has been hospitalised. In all cases a health professional or health team assesses whether someone can be released from isolation, and so return to work safely.

There are a range of reasons why workers may come to work despite being told they should stay home if unwell. It’s important to have open communication with workers to understand why they want to be at work. 

Check in regularly with workers to ensure they’re well. You could supplement this with a system that provides a self-symptom check for workers and other people before they enter the workplace. Your system needs to ensure that other people who don’t routinely work there are also screened.

The frequency of checking will vary depending upon the nature of your work, and what you and your worker representatives decide will be most effective. It is essential you involve workers and their representatives in deciding your system. Some businesses and organisations may choose to do more extensive checking, in agreement with their workers. Privacy requirements will also apply to any personal information collected(external link)

 You may also like to consider:

  • setting up flexible leave arrangements to ensure workers stay at home and are not financially pressured to come to work when they are unwell
  • how you’ll follow up to ensure workers only return if they have recovered or they have been tested and cleared of COVID-19 and are no longer symptomatic.

Links to more information:

Ministry of Health - workplace infectious disease prevention(external link)

How will you operate your business in a way that keeps workers and other people safe from exposure to COVID-19?

Businesses and organisations should manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission at work by implementing the physical distancing, limits on customer numbers (if applicable) and contact tracing requirements for their type of work. You should also follow public health guidance on good hygiene and cleaning practices(external link).

Remember that physical distancing also needs to be applied for lifts, stairwells and access ways, so far as is reasonably practicable. If you share a building you may need to collaborate with other building users to achieve this. You also need to ensure that cleaning of lifts and other shared spaces is not overlooked.

If you are using hand sanitiser as part of your good hygiene practice, make sure you read and adhere to the safety information on the label. It’s best to use soap and water when possible.

In most work situations personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t recommended, other than what’s routinely required for the work. If workers are worried about working without PPE, it is important you engage with them and their representatives about the underlying reasons for their concerns. Discuss which controls you’ve chosen and why.

Some businesses may still choose to use alternative ways of working, including working from home. You should continue to ensure that workers who are working remotely can do so safely

You may also like to consider:

  • what processes you’ll implement to ensure good hygiene and cleaning standards are maintained.
  • how you’ll inform and, if needed, train your workers on new processes.
  • when, if at all, PPE will be used and why. If PPE is to be used, consider how workers will be trained to use it correctly.
  • how you’ll make sure you have ongoing supplies of essential cleaning and hygiene products.
  • how you’ll work with other businesses or organisations to make sure appropriate practices are followed by both your workers and theirs. (This helps you meet HSWA overlapping duties requirements.)
  • whether you’ll implement revolving breaks or common protocols to ensure the required one metre physical distance in the office, at team meetings, and at other shared facilities.
  • how you’ll collaborate with other businesses and organisations in your building to manage shared spaces like stairwells, lifts, and foyers.
  • how you will meet the needs of workers and customers with disabilities. For example how you will ensure wheelchair access and how you will communicate with people who are hearing impaired.
  • whether you’ll make transport arrangements for workers travelling to and from work, to make their commute easier, to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and to respond to any limited capacity on public transport due to physical distancing requirements.

It’ll take time for people to get used to the new processes so expect a delay in workers returning to their usual level of performance. Changing work practices can bring new risks and impacts on existing risks at a time when your workers may still be stressed due to the restrictions of COVID-19 requirements on them and their families. You must engage with workers and worker representatives to minimise new risks created by the changes you implement.

Links to more information:

Ministry of Health - general cleaning information following suspected or probable or confirmed case (external link)

WorkSafe - COVID-19 advice and guidance 

Ministry of Health - COVID-19 advice for essential workers including personal protective equipment(external link)

Ministry of Health - workplace infectious disease prevention(external link)

How will you manage an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19?

Despite your best efforts, it’s possible a worker or other person at work may start to show symptoms consistent with COVID-19. This could happen either while they are at work or after they interacted with you or your workers.

There will be a delay between symptoms developing, testing, and getting test results. In most cases the person will not have COVID-19. Unless advised otherwise you can continue to operate. Follow advice from Healthline or the worker’s GP about when it’s safe for them to return to work.

Ensure you follow public health requirements for contact tracing records for your type of work.

You need to make sure that:

  • workers who are unwell with respiratory symptoms immediately go home, and call Healthline or their GP.
  • if a worker has tested positive, and you are contacted by a Public Health Unit, you can provide clear information regarding the worker’s contacts at work. Wait for the Public Health Unit to contact you. They will provide advice about any further actions you are required to take. Consider who at your workplace is best to liaise with the Public Health Unit if they call.
  • the work area of the unwell worker is disinfected in accordance with the cleaning procedures that you have implemented, in line with public health guidance.
  • you have information about who was in contact with the worker from when the worker is suspected to have contracted COVID-19, because this will assist with contact tracing.
  • you have a system for keeping in contact with unwell workers and tracking their progress.

You may also like to think about:

  • how you’ll make sure your contact tracing records are being used, maintained and secured correctly(external link)
  • how you’ll prevent people from touching common surfaces, or using common equipment, in order to enter contact details
  • whether you should/could divide your work space into zones and limit movement between the zones
  • how you’ll avoid people sharing office products like pens and paper whenever possible
  • how you’ll make sure workers are able to wash their hands regularly
  • whether you’ll supervise visitors who aren’t at your site regularly

Links to more information:

Ministry of Health - COVID-19 face mask and hygeine advice (external link)

Ministry of Health - general cleaning information following suspected probable of confirmed case of COVID-19(external link)

Ministry of Health - contact tracing for COVID-19 (external link)

Ministry of Health - COVID-19 advice for essential workers including personal protective equipment(external link)

How will you check to see if your work processes and risk controls are effective?

A change in Alert Levels requires different ways of working, and things may not always go to plan. You and your workers will need to be prepared to learn and adapt to find the best ways to maintain physical distancing, and good hygiene and cleaning practices.

To make sure you can learn and adapt quickly, engage with your workers to find ways for them to let you know about what’s working, what’s not, and how things could be improved. You need to have good processes in place, which encourage workers to engage in work health and safety matters. Ask your workers – don’t just assume they will tell you.

Many businesses and organisations will already have effective incident reporting approaches that can be adapted to assess how well their COVID-19 controls are working. If you don’t have an incident reporting approach, or your usual practices aren’t right for these circumstances, you’ll need a way to find out if your COVID-19 controls are working.

You might like to consider:

  • the best way to engage with workers and their representatives – ask them how they would like to engage on decisions and provide feedback, and remember it may not be possible for them to complete forms or attend meetings outside of work
  • scheduling regular times to review your COVID-19 controls and their effectiveness
  • how you’ll communicate changes to processes and make sure all workers know about the changes and are trained to implement them
  • how you might use health and safety representatives to evaluate the COVID-19 controls’ implementation.

How do any changes impact on the risks of the work you do?

Changes to work procedures or practices may affect the way you’ve routinely managed the risks that arise from your work. For example, you may have controlled the risk of lifting heavy items by having two people involved, and now only one person is available to do the task.

It’s also possible the new procedures you put in place bring new risks or challenges you’ve not had to think about before. For example, if you are planning to introduce shift rotations, you’ll need to work out how to manage the associated risks.

Links to more information:

Managing risks 

How to manage work risks

External assistance

The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) Register (external link) offers a searchable database of work-related health professionals who can provide businesses advice on how best to protect workers returning to work through the alert levels. The register is free but if you choose to engage one of the professionals there will be a fee for that service.