Though it was great headline stuff, the reality is that all the government actually did was hand the decision over to Employers about how they manage the health and safety risk of COVID 19. And, legally, you have a responsibility under the Health and Safety at work act 2015, to provide a safe working environment for staff, contractors, visitors etc. So, COVID 19 is one of those risks that you now have to manage.
So, not only do you have to carry out that risk assessment, as this is a continually evolving situation, you also need to review it regularly to see if it is still valid and relevant for your organisation.
Live Q&A session
I’ll be participating in a Live Q&A session on the Biz Shiz channel for Small Business on Wednesday 6th April at 10.10am to talk about this topic, so do come along and join us
The HRtoolkit Tools
The Document library contains a H&S risk assessment matrix and also a COVID testing and vaccination policy document to help with this assessment, and I would strongly recommend that you do keep a written record of your H&S assessment.
In addition, I have also just uploaded a Working from Home Policy which may be required as part of your response.
So, what is the risk you are assessing?
In simple terms you are assessing the following risks:
- How likely is the transmission of COVID 19 in your workplace?
- If COVID 19 was transmitted, what would be in impact of that transmission?
Tools/responses to prevent transmission
Obviously, we have all been living with this for the last 2 years, but it is useful to reiterate the tools you have available for prevent of transmission if you believe this to be a risk for your workplace:
- Mask wearing
- Regular Rapid Antigen Testing
- Distancing protocols
- Keeping your bubbles of interaction small
- Regular cleaning
- Keeping things outdoors
- Vaccine passports
Yes, the government has mandated these things over the last 2 years, but now the responsibility lies with the business owner to decide what rules they need to enforce.
Impact of Transmission
The impact of transmission falls into 2 main categories:
- The number of people who could be affected – I.e. café’s, supermarkets, malls (high traffic areas) could all result in high numbers of people being impacted if there was a COVID 19 case, so you may assess this as being high risk for your business and need to respond accordingly
- The vulnerability of the people who could be affected – i.e. young children, immune-compromised, elderly etc will potentially have far greater consequences if they become infected, so you need to respond accordingly to that risk
Do they need a negative test to return to work?
Under the government-funded absence payments, you do not need to return a negative test to return to work, you just need to serve the relevant isolation period. However, this may be something that you need to consider as an additional protection measure.
But No Jab, No Job is illegal, there was a court ruling?
Correct, there was a court ruling deeming the Military and Police no jab no job mandate invalid. However, the H&S assessment was done at a time when vaccination levels were low, and therefore having a large proportion of the Defence force at risk from COVID was a matter of national security. However, by the time the case came to court, there were only 300 personnel out of 31,000 affected who were no longer vaccinated. As such, the original assessment that this would have an impact on national security was no longer valid and therefore the mandate was no longer valid. As such, no jab no job policies are certainly still valid, however it is critical that you regularly review your policy to ensure that your reasons for having that policyare still valid,
Business risk assessment
Business risk is not a Health and Safety consideration; however, it is a quite important consideration in this situation.
For example, if you operate a café and you decide to:
- Continue with the existing rules, then you may upset those people who are anti-mandates
- OR decide to drop all rules and serve anyone, then you may upset those people who feel this may put them at increased risk of COVID
Whatever your personal views, I can’t help but feel that, despite the fact that we have actually been allowed far higher freedoms under the traffic light system, a large proportion of people are now choosing to limit their “interactions with the outside world”. I live in the Bay of Islands, and very few of the restaurants, motels etc are anywhere near the capacities that they are allowed under the red Traffic light system, the people are simply not coming. I’m sure rising cost of living, on-going uncertainty about what 2022 etc are factors. However, I’m certain the “COVID risk” is still making people think twice about going out. So, if you want to rebuild your business, you need to think carefully about the balance between 100% rules and no rules.
We are here to help
Feel free to give me a call on 021 714 544 to talk about your situation and how you can address this issue.