Coronavirus in the work place?
With infections on the rise, our contact centers are inundated with calls asking what steps to follow after someone has been tested positive for the Coronavirus and have been to work.
Should the business close? Does the department of health have to approve re-opening and what should the rest of the work force do?
We contacted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (0800 111 132) and they confirmed that the following steps should be part of your Health and Safety plan once an employee has been diagnosed with Coronavirus:
If the employee is at work he/she should be transported in a safe manner to self-isolation or for medical treatment (depending on symptoms)
Any one showing flu symptoms should contact the National Corona Virus Hotline ( 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp HI to 0600 123 456) immediately for testing and self-isolate for 14 days.
All employees must be notified and the employer should identify close contacts of the employee and either send these for testing or self-quarantine depending on whether they have symptoms or not.
All personnel must be screened for possible symptoms. (this must happened on a daily basis as well)
A Registered Cleaning Company must clean and disinfect the offices and must be able to certify that disinfecting has taken place.
Any positive case needs to be reported to the labour department.
The doctor or clinic who performs the test will report any cases to the department of health.
Can the Department of Health or Labour close the business?
The short answer is yes, however there are a number of factors they consider. The closure of the business depends on the number of employees tested positive, the exposure of these employees to others in the business and the area of the business affected.
Temporary closure can also be avoided by rapidly cleaning and disinfecting, completing screening of all staff and insuring preventative measures are in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Even if the authorities determine that it is not necessary to close the business, a business may for operating reasons, decide to temporarily close – such a decision is the business’ choice and no approval is needed from a third party for the business to reopen under such circumstances.
If a business has closed itself due to an employee testing positive, it should indicate that it has undertaken all steps to comply with the regulations and guidelines with respect to disinfecting the workplace. It may then re-open itself and does not require a formal permit from government.
If the business has been closed by the Department of Employment & Labour, it will need permission from the Department of Employment & Labour to reopen.
Implementing Health and Safety
Not keeping up to date with health and safety can not only be harmful to your staff but can also be hugely damaging to your business. It’s paramount that health and safety isn’t taken lightly or seen as being optional. If your company's health and safety plan has not been updated to accommodated the current Covid-19 crisis, outsourcing might be your best option.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that an Employer must ensure that its working environment is safe and without risk to the health of its Employees.
Should the department of Health or Labour inspect the premises, they will ask for your companies health and safety plan and certificate of disinfection which must be from valid cleaning company.
Very importantly, during this time the OHSA must be followed to its full extent to avoid claims and fines imposed on the Employer at a later stage.