If you’re a business or service operating at the border – ports and airports – or involved in the operation of managed isolation and quarantine facilities (MIQFs), exposure to COVID-19 is a new critical risk you need to manage.
As part of managing this risk you need to continue to meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). You also need to meet public health requirements under the COVID-19 Health Response Act 2020 and its relevant Orders (see link below), including the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020.
The difference between HSWA obligations and COVID-19 public health requirements
Meeting your HSWA obligations means putting measures in place to prevent your workers from being infected with COVID-19, so far as is reasonably practicable. If one of your workers does become infected, then meeting your COVID-19 public health requirements reduces the risk of the virus spreading into the community.
Meeting your HSWA obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic
Managing the risk of workers becoming infected with a pandemic disease is new, and our understanding of how to manage the risk is evolving. But you’ll be familiar with meeting your HSWA obligations for other risks. In the context of this new risk, meeting your HSWA obligations means doing the same kinds of activities with an additional focus.
Here are some examples of what you need to do:
- follow public health guidance on minimising the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission for your workers and others affected by the work
- consult with your workers – and their representatives – about managing the risk of COVID-19 infection and take their feedback on board
- make sure workers understand and follow the work health and safety procedures at the port, airport, or MIQF they’re working at
- carry out regular risk assessments, engaging with your workers to make sure all the risks of COVID-19 exposure are identified, and assessed, and that appropriate control measures are implemented
- consult, cooperate, and coordinate activities with any businesses and services you share overlapping duties with, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Remember to also engage with workers on any general work health and safety concerns that arise.
For more information about how to meet your HSWA obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic see the COVID-19 section of our website.
Meeting public health requirements for your workers to be regularly tested for COVID-19
Public health requirements are set out in the COVID-19 Public Health Response Orders. Businesses and services involved in the operation of MIQFs or that operate at the border need to meet all applicable requirements in the Orders. This includes meeting requirements in the Required Testing Order (the Order), which sets out how often workers must undergo testing and a medical exam for COVID-19.
Under this Order your workers are responsible for getting a test and medical exam according to the testing period for their group. You must not prevent workers from getting their regular test and medical exam during working hours, if testing is available during that time. You may also want to make it as easy as possible for workers to comply.
To support your workers to get tested regularly think about:
- how your rosters or work schedules could be adjusted to ensure workers are able to get a test while at work
- whether it’s possible for workers to be tested at a community site if that’s their preference – for example, prior to starting work that day
- whether workers will need a buddy to accompany them if their English is limited, and how that could be arranged
- how to manage fatigue if the worker is on night shift and testing is only available during the day
- how you can support a worker who’s reluctant to be tested, and
- how you’ll manage a situation where a worker’s reluctant to notify you about testing.
Encourage your workers and their representatives to let you know if there’s anything in your control that could help enable them access testing.
The Order also requires you to notify workers of their responsibility to have COVID-19 tests and medical exams, and the testing period that applies. If a worker belongs to two or more of the groups set out in the Order, and is subject to two or more testing periods, the more frequent period will apply to them.
When you’re thinking about the best way to notify workers, consider their:
- age and experience
- first language
- ability to read and write, and
- culture and context.
Ask workers and their representatives what information they would like to have about COVID-19 tests and medical exams, and how it should be provided. For example, you could give workers written information and then organise for someone to meet with workers to talk through the information and answer any questions. Think about how you can check workers understand the information you provide.
Finally, the Order also requires you to keep and maintain a record of your workers’ COVID-19 tests and medical exams, including:
- the worker’s full name and date of birth
- their contact phone number
- the testing period that applies
- the dates on which the worker underwent testing and a medical exam (keep this up-to-date) and
- details of any exemption, if applicable.
This information must be easy to access. If an enforcement officer asks for access to the record you must provide it to them as soon as practicable.
Workers must provide you with information required for you to keep a full and up-to-date record.
More information about how you can meet your responsibilities under the Order is available on the Ministry of Health website(external link).