Workplace preparedness for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

3 February 2020

Minimising the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace is important to keeping staff safe and well at work.  With the coronavirus recently being declared a global emergency many New Zealand businesses will be looking into how they can protect themselves, their workers and their customers.  The below information is sourced from the Ministry of Health, the guidance is aimed protecting the workplace from pandemic, including coronavirus as well as other outbreaks such as flu.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires businesses to mitigate health and safety risks and protect their workers from them, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Ways to protect your workplace

There are a number of actions employers can take to minimise the risk of spreading of infectious diseases in the workplace:

Encourage workers to follow the basic personal actions to stop the spread of infectious diseases. These include:

  • getting immunised against infectious diseases (where possible)
  • washing and drying hands regularly and well
  • staying at home if they are sick
  • covering coughs and sneezes.
  • provide liquid hand sanitiser at reception and the bar for members and guests to use.
  • communicate early with members that in the interests of staff and members that they should not visit the club if they are sick or have been in contact with someone who is sick.

Provide immunisations to workers (such as the seasonal influenza vaccine.)  

Keep workplaces clean

Regular cleaning of the workplace environment will minimise the spread of infection by reducing workers' contact with contaminated surfaces.

Workplace environments vary greatly so it is important to consider your particular work environment and what is frequently used and touched by workers, customers and others.

Clean surfaces with a suitable cleaner and/ or disinfectant and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. When choosing a suitable cleaning product, consider what the product is effective against and the length of time the product needs to be left on a surface to clean it properly.

Where possible, use disposable cloths to clean surfaces. Reusable cloths should be cleaned, disinfected and then dried after use.

Ensure appropriate equipment is available for workers to wash and dry their hands.

Ensure good ventilation

Enclosed spaces can increase the spread of infectious diseases. Employers should ensure air conditioning systems are well maintained. It is advisable that air conditioning systems do not re-circulate air and are vented to the outside as much as possible.

If the workplace does not have an air conditioning system, open windows regularly to get fresh air circulating.

Plan for outbreaks and pandemics

You should consider what extra measures you can take to protect workers in a pandemic, and put appropriate plans in place.

Areas to plan for include;

  • How you will maintain your essential services or activities with high numbers of staff absence over an extended period?
  • What essential goods and services you rely on and how you will manage any disruptions to supply?
  • What services will need additional support to meet a surge in demand?
  • How you can protect your workers and reduce the risk of spread of the pandemic influenza virus in your workplace?  Do you need to introduce a policy around sick leave i.e. exclusion periods if it is suspected that staff have been exposed to certain virus', do you need to consider offering additional sick leave (above the usual allowance) to staff to encourage them to actually take leave when they are sick?

We are yet to know the impact Coronavirus may have on New Zealand, however, you can take steps now to reduce the impact on your club now, the benefit is that you will also be prepared for when flu season rolls around again.

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