• Andy Bunyan
    10
    Hi team,

    Has anyone seen a position statement or similar from WS in respect of them being notified of COVID transmission where the workplace is reasonably likely the place where it occurred?

    Obviously omicron has been much more virulent and one might anticipate that notifications to WS would go through the roof were we to do so. That said, some guidance notes would be handy in respect of when and when not to do so. I have seen some guidance from several Australian states but nothing here. That AU guidance seems consistent in only seeking notification if someone has been admitted to hospital, seriously ill or indeed dead, and where it is reasonably likely that the workplace was the transmission point. We just don't seem to have it here. As a consequence, any insight would be much welcomed.

    Thanks

    Andy
  • Stephen Small
    24
    Hi Andy

    Going back to first principles, it would depend on two factors:
    1. if Covid infection is a notifiable illness as defined in Section 23 of HAWSA (which covers seriousness).
    2. if the possibility of infection at the workplace is significantly higher than the possibilty of infection in the community - and how this could be proven?

    S.
  • MattD2
    288
    Just my opinion (as like you say I haven't seen any official WorkSafe NZ advice) but unless the worker is involved in any of the specified types of work under S23d(i-v), or is working directly for a workplace with an increased risk of Covid infected people being present (e.g. MIQ facilities or hospitals ED departments or wards) then it is likely that their work is not a significant contributing factor to contracting Covid, and therefore not notifiable.
    In other words (as @Stephen Small said above) unless the chance of getting Covid is higher from interacting with people at work than from interacting with people in the general community, in my opinion it wouldn't meet the threshold for notifying.

    My test would be to look at the potential sources of the infection - and if the source of infection and worker could reasonably swap places, it wouldn't be notifiable; e.g.
    • a delivery driver contracts Covid from from interacting with another worker or non-isolating customer - given suitable training/experience either of these people could take the place of the delivery driver, and so not notifiable.
    • a housekeeping staff member at a hotel being used as a MIQ facility contracts Covid from either another worker or a person isolating - since it is not reasonable to consider the housekeeping staff member and the person isolating could easily swap places (i.e. the infected person can't work, and the non-infected staff member shouldn't be in MIQ) then the work could be a significant contributing factor and the illness could be notifiable.
    • A worker in a Covid testing lab is potentially exposed to Covid from test samples - since the worker and the samples can't swap places the work could be a significant contributing factor and the illness could be notifiable. Although this would probably also fit into the specified case of work with micro-organisms under 23d(i).
  • Thomas Jones
    3
    Hi Andy I have been going off this info to date,
    We expect these businesses and services to:
    • comply with all relevant COVID-19 legislation requirements
    • have the appropriate infectious disease controls and management systems in place to reduce the likelihood of their workers being infected by COVID-19, and
    • notify us if a worker contracts COVID-19 and work activities are a significant contributing factor to their infection.
    https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/novel-coronavirus-covid/our-enforcement-approach-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  • MattD2
    288
    We expect these businesses and services to:
    comply with all relevant COVID-19 legislation requirements
    have the appropriate infectious disease controls and management systems in place to reduce the likelihood of their workers being infected by COVID-19, and
    notify us if a worker contracts COVID-19 and work activities are a significant contributing factor to their infection.
    Thomas Jones

    Just to clarify this, the preceding sentence to this is:
    We expect some businesses and services to do more. These are businesses and services that carry out work that must be performed by a vaccinated worker. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 specifies who those workers are.

    So would that effectively be that WorkSafe NZ only expect to be notified by businesses who are covered by the Vaccinations order? Which as of tonight is back to ports/airports, correction, medical and education. So a very limited scope of who should be notifying.
  • Andy Bunyan
    10
    thanks Thomas - a good spot I hadn't seen however there remains no sense of scaling towards those more severe cases that Australia seems to have focussed notification wants on. Indeed if we focus on the wording - namely "notify us if a worker contracts COVID-19 and work activities are a significant contributing factor to their infection"
  • Andy Bunyan
    10
    Continued..

    "notify us if a worker contracts COVID-19 and work activities are a significant contributing factor to their infection" then it might be reasonable to consider many worker infections could indeed be notifiable in that the only common thread to workers is the workplace itself.

    Of course it is impossible to determine where cross-infection occurs but if workers are under the same roof then it cannot of course be ruled out.

    Thanks all to those replying - appreciate it!
  • Donna Balle
    3
    This is what I received from WorkSafe in December 2021
    Thank you for contacting WorkSafe New Zealand and apologies for the delay in our response due to an extremely high volume of general enquiries.

    We would agree that there is no need to report COVID-19 cases to WorkSafe even if there is a possibility it was contracted through work. If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 a medical officer of health will notify WorkSafe of this, so we do not expect PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) or workers to make a notification.

    As COVID-19 is a public health matter and the Ministry of Health is the lead agency for responding to COVID-19, WorkSafe will not be taking direct action on any notifications we do receive. And it is up to the individual business on how the information will be kept or classified within the workplace, as it is for your own business records.
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