I've been thinking...........
I’ve had a nice restful holiday which is a dangerous thing. It gives me to time to listen and read the experts. And think. Like………..
“The number of individual cases that don’t have an obvious connection (to travel or clusters) in that period (1 April to 20 April) stands now at only 8.”.
Hmm. 8 people infected all up. That’s one random person per 602,000 head of population. In a 20 day period.
“The Director General of Health is confident that there is currently no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand.”
8 random people in 20 days. That sounds cosha.
“Our transmission rate, the number of cases each person with the virus passes it onto, is now 0.48, less than half a person each.”
Ssh don’t mention exponential growth with an (R0) of 3. Time to bin those outdated models and come up with something more relevant.
So what this all boils down to is we have no community transmission, no infected people in the community and no transmission. Not absolute zero – but close enough for me to reasonably conclude I need to do absolutely zero in my return to work plan.
But there was more. Seems to me our Employer Associations think they are some mystical crystal ball readers. Afterall they can produce
“Safe Work Protocls”
without knowing the risk at the time the guidelines come into effect and without knowing what Health Order has been issued. And the protocols appear to be way out of proportion of the objective risk the experts have been telling us about above.
Not only that, but they also need proof readers. Take this wee gem,
“Upon arrival each day, obtain signed declaration from each employee that they are free of the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold (e.g. runny nose, sneezing), loss of sense of smell, with or without fever before they are allowed on site”
. Someone has clearly done a cut / paste of the suspect case definition. Except they left out the most important part
“Any acute respiratory infection with at least one of the following symptoms:……”
at the beginning of the symptom list.
Is “Shovel Ready” tied to protocols? Nudge nudge wink as the contact tracing envelope gets slipped under the door.
And what about this classic “
"Elimination doesn't mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases
,” Imagine if we applied that to our safety management – I might just give it a go
And the other beaut. 5 working days equals 2 business days. You really have to wonder who the expert advisors are.
So we have the Minister of Health and NZ’er of The Year who are both very close to this issue and both choose to ignore lockdown. I’ m thinking “dang, I’m going hunting this weekend” or maybe these two experts know the risks and are just doing what they know is perfectly safe.
And my final thought. I wonder how many supermarkets have been open, and how many hours they have been open for, and how many customers they have had and how many Covid cases have been transmitted in this type of environment.
Lots to think about as I start to apply the above in the context of returning to work under the Health Order and HSWA requirements.
Oh – and I love charts! (Source = Min of Health)
Oops heres the chart
I sincerely hope that once we have worked our way through this experience there will be more deep and meaningful discussions about risk and risk management. Risk is a fact of life; optimal outcomes are never 100% certain. There are enormous gaps between individual perspectives about what is 'reasonably practical' and some people's apparent aims to have 'no risk', which leads to a lot of confusing and contradictory messages (just like we have seen from the whole COVID-19 experience).
In addition to the conversations about risk, we should also be talking about personal responsibility and accountability, for the managers who are charged with the responsibilities to lead and make decisions, as well as the individuals who participate in business activities.
We can't expect hard lines or 'black or white' answers, because there are so many possibilities of contextual factors, but ignoring individual responsibilities (including the impact of one's own attitudes and actions), abdicating responsibilities, adopting an overly controlling authoritarian approach or taking a laissez-faire approach - none of those will fix what has long been broken in the way we approach workplace safety matters.
And I lay part of the blame on the "zero harm" mentality.
We seem to have entered a world where every risk (perceived or real) must be managed to the nth degree so that no one gets in the least bit hurt. And we create processes to support that position. This might be good for HS practitioners from a job creation perspective, but it surely can't be rewarding work.
Worse yet is the herd mentality where inquisitive thought is no longer given to an issue. Instead we seem to prefer stuff that is just handed to us without question. And we meekly follow.
Your "personal responsibility" comment is an interesting one. In the tsunami of Covid Alert 3 guidelines and protocols coming out I don't recall a bit that says "it is an employees responsibility to stay home and take appropriate action if they think they are a suspect case". Maybe its there but to be honest my eyes have glazed over after getting to page 2 of some of these documents.
One of the factors behind the 'herd mentality' arises when people don't have a clear understanding of a requirement, can't or won't delve into it to determine what it really means or the purpose for the requirement, so I have observed that many will look around to see what other people have decided and just jump onto that bandwagon without any proper due diligence or sense-making. I saw this all the time when ISO9001 was being introduced in NZ, and so many management systems ended up with overly bureaucratic systems that still missed the mark of achieving management control of a process.
Zero Harm, just as Zero Defects did before it, made it unacceptable to get any outcome other than what you intended, which completely stifled the learning process and effective communication.
You are right that the majority of advice given did not specifically mention the responsibilities individuals have for preventing the spread of COVID-19. My employer's Managers' Guides and company communications to employees included mention of worker responsibilities, and along with all the work we did to meet MPI requirements to continue operating as an essential business, the company also required each worker to make a declaration that they would adhere to all the MPI requirements, including social distancing and maintaining a separate 'bubble' at home as well as at work. We also emphasised that anyone who felt unwell should contact their manager and discuss it, and the instructions to managers was that anyone who felt unwell or anyone who met criteria for a suspected case should stay home and contact their manager ASAP. We had a couple of people who were sent home for illness and we required them to get their doctor's advice on testing - they were tested and found negative. We also put in place a return to work interview and declaration form, to give us a formal opportunity to assure ourselves that anyone who was off sick for any reason could return safely. We also clarified options for leave very early in the piece. Our managers and admin people mostly worked on site because we felt it was more fair to the workers who did not have an option to work from home, and so we could be there to support them. That also meant we were all keeping more connected and keeping an eye on everyone's mental state throughout.
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