Working through COVID 19
Just before COVID 19 hit New Zealand earlier this month, I had signed up as a casual employee for seasonal work. So, as it happens, I am an essential worker. Who would have thought?
Its been interesting, from an H&S perspective, to see how the organisation has dealt with the new situation. In my opinion, it has done well. Physical distancing of 2 metres in the workplace, providing appropriate PPE, making sure everyone washes their hands, staggering the use of the washbasins, checking everyone’s temperate as they enter the factory, staggering the shifts, applying tape throughout the factory and café to keep people separate and making appropriate changes to work practices, amongst other things, seem like the right thing to do. And, after talking to the chap in charge, there is more to come.
I am going to make the following recommendations:
Disinfect the login keyboard and finger ID reader after every employee - or have a staff member do it wearing rubber gloves
Use the term ‘Physical Distance’, not ‘Social Distance’, as we still want people to connect socially, just not physically
Provide workers with information on what to do at home from the Unite COVID 19 site
Use COVID 19 site posters to replace the Australian Victorian Health posters to show solidarity with the rest of the country and with the campaign
Have a board showing what the organisation has done, what it is going to do and what the workers need to do.
But I still have concerns, not so much with the organisation, but with the workers and what happens at home. When I get home, I strip off my work clothes and leave them in the garage. But do they? And are they keeping in their ‘bubble’?
Yesterday as I raced to my car after finishing work, I heard a guy behind me blow his nose (and not into a tissue) and then spit on to the ground. He had just worked the same long shift where personal health and hygiene had been a focus, but he didn’t make the connection to his behaviour once he left the factory.
And, what about the recently employed workers (the organisation is still employing)? Where are they coming from and what are they doing when they go home?
My partner, my dad and friends are questioning whether I should continue working there.
Action or no action. In my workplace that workers behavior would be considered a breach of govt. And company guidelines it could be dealt with by way of any of the following or combination of one on one training disciplinary action incl. Prohibited from returning to work place. It is an essential industry have to do everything possible to protect the services ability to kp supply going
As well as implementing all the controls for on site, (spitting/sneezing/coughing openly in the carpark is classed as on site and the person would undergo some sort of disciplinary as appropriate) we've also made the requirement for workers to follow lockdown rules off site very clear (through posters, inductions, one-point-lessons, mini-toolboxes,videos etc, plus the messaging from the Govt and the possible $1,000 fine).
Workers are required to fill in a declaration form before coming on site each day to confirm that they;
do not have a cough, cold or covid-19 symptoms
have only gone home (or essential services) when not at work.
have not [physically] interacted with anyone outside their bubble. If the answer to this is that they have, then the worker has to declare who and whether distancing was practiced.
The above listed is paraphrased and yes, for the most part it works as an informant, deterrant, and when we get our first case, will also be useful for contact tracing. It is also the best we can do without encroaching anyones privacy any more than neccessary under current circumstances.
New workers coming into the site have to undergo a standard medical and a covid-specific health check and of course the accompanying declarartion form. Plus the off site requirements are as part of the induction and training.
Depending on the job they've come from, new workers may be asked to isolate for 14 days. A worker coming in from the healthcare sector would be an example where this was required.
Hope that helps
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