Construction health and safety in Level 3

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Government has announced that New Zealand will move to Level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown response from 11.59pm Monday April 27. This will allow construction work that has been on hold to resume, or for new work to start. There will however be significant  requirements in place to ensure that this work is carried out safely in the context of the lockdown objectives. It is not a simple ”back to work” and a great deal of planning, communication and understanding will need to take place.

At Level 3, people who are able to work from home must do so. Work that has to be done on-site or cannot be done from home, will need to be done with health and safety and physical distancing measures in place for both staff and building occupants.

Under Alert Level 3 operating businesses must put appropriate health and safety measures in place, including physical distancing. CHASNZ (Construction Health and Safety NZ), in conjunction with the joint government/industry Construction Sector Accord, have developed and published detailed construction health and safety standards and protocols for the residential, civil and vertical sectors.

With the potential for construction to move to Level 3, there has already been detailed guidance:

https://www.building.govt.nz/covid-19/alert-level-3/#jumpto-occupations-considered-part-of-the-building-and-construction-sector

This refers in turn to more specific information from Worksafe in terms of Health and safety expectations:

https://worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-essential-businesses/

And in even more detail from Construction Health and Safety NZ:

There is a lot of information to absorb, but the guidelines include the following:

  • The need to have a COVID-19 response plan in place. This is in addition to the site safety plans that will already be in operation
  • The plan must be communicated to workers before they start work on site.
  • Steps before arriving on site include remote induction by phone or video link
  • Establishing transport protocols to deal with how workers can safely arrive on site and leave at the end of the day
  • Establishing and following a physical distancing and hygiene protocol including steps that workers need to take when returning home
  • Ensuring workers understand how to use and are provided with any additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required such as masks and gloves and how these are to be disposed of safely
  • Signage on site reinforcing the need to follow the protocols
  • Site registers to enable effective tracing and ensuring only relevant workers on site
  • Cleaning of equipment and restrictions on visitors and deliveries to site
  • Signing out processes, waste disposal and site cleaning requirements.

As work sites are diverse in size and complexity, there is not a one size fits all approach but the expectations are clearly set out and will need to be addressed practically by things such as the staggering of meal breaks, provision of wash stands and even the provision of catering where it will not be possible for workers to provide for themselves and trips are to be minimised. The cost and time implications of meeting these requirements will need to be addressed by the parties, so early communication during the transitional period is critical.

For further information please contact a member of our construction and projects or health and safety team.

 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, this is a rapidly changing environment and the information will be subject to change.