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Concern that Covid-19 protocols 'may compromise site safety'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Now that Auckland’s construction sector is back in action under Level 3, managing the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace adds another layer of complexity to any organisation’s health and safety measures, and may be distracting firms from their usual health and safety protocols, a local expert says.

Jason Braithwaite, the General Manager of New Zealand health and safety training provider BeSafe Training Ltd, says that as well as the usual stringent health and safety measures the construction sector has in place for heavy machinery use or for employees working at heights or in confined spaces, the necessary Covid-19 protocols may be splitting the safety focus in a workplace.

"With all the emphasis on managing Covid-19 in the workplace, I do wonder how that is impacting on the other workplace risks that still haven’t gone away."

Braithwaite says while larger building firms are likely to have the resources to ensure both the Covid-19 restrictions and the other workplace safety protocols are being adhered to, smaller firms may be finding it more difficult.

"These businesses may already be under pressure due to the time lost during the Level 4 lockdown. On top of this they are grappling with issues around the supply of building materials along with the well-documented labour shortage," he says.

"Some firms may also have had to reduce the number of workers on site under the Covid restrictions, so won’t be back to 100 percent productivity, adding yet another pressure.’’

Braithwaite says some practical steps organisations could take to help manage the Covid-19 risks while ensuring the usual health and safety protocols are being adhered to are:

Plan and prepare effective controls throughout the workplace including having a plan if Covid-19 raises its head in your business. How will you organise the work to occur with the controls in place? How will you respond if an employee does test positive for Covid-19?

Mitigate the Covid-19 risks by separating your teams. Don’t have all your digger operators working together because if one of them tests positive you may lose all those specialists. Essentially don’t put all your key people in one place but have them working in separate teams so if one team has to stop work, others can carry on.

Audit and review all your usual protocols as well as the Covid-19 measures you have in place. And monitor closely to see if all protocols are being adhered to by staff members.

If protocols are not adhered to, find out why. Perhaps the masks in use are hot and uncomfortable whilst they are working on a task, meaning employers pull them down to let themselves breathe more freely. Take any necessary measures to ensure they will be used correctly in the future.

Braithwaite says that by ensuring your team members understand the major ramifications of not following the Covid-19 safety measures means they personally will be safer as will their families and communities and your business will be safer and more productive too.

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