COVID-19 – preparing for alert level 1

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand will move to Alert Level 1 from midnight, 8th June 2020.  Agencies should refer to the COVID-19 website(external link) for more information on Alert Level 1 and to the State Services Workforce Guidelines(external link) for sector guidance and key principles, including key health and safety requirements for Alert Level 1, as below:

  • Workers can work in the workplace, though public health standards and health and safety obligations must be met.  Workers can work in the workplace, though public health standards and health and safety obligations must be met. 
  • Physical distancing is not required but is encouraged.
  • Agencies are not required to maintain records to enable contact tracing, but are encouraged to enable contact tracing (e.g., by displaying QR codes) so as long as they protect peoples’ privacy and safety.
  • Agencies should follow general public health advice (regularly disinfect surfaces; wash and dry hands, cough and sneeze into elbow, don’t touch your face; if you have cold or flu symptoms stay at home and ring Healthline or your GP).
  • The workplace is in a business as usual state, so continue to:
    o Communicate clearly and often with staff.
    o Engage worker health and safety representatives and union delegates in planning and communications.
    o Ensure wellbeing support, including EAP, is accessible.

Although Alert Level 1 is close to “business as usual”, as a minimum, agencies must continue to adhere to public health advice, but may also choose to keep additional control measures in place where it is practicable to do so. 

Agencies should also consider the following;   

Hygiene practices 
In addition to maintaining measures you now have in place (hand sanitiser, wipes, cleaning, signage etc.), agencies should also ensure enhanced cleaning processes are in place in the case of future suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Contact Tracing
Agencies have been encouraged by the Ministry of Health to create QR codes and posters for each work site.  We’ve been advised that there is a bulk upload process available to help you with this – phone 0800 800 606 or email for more information on QR code posters.  

Physical Distancing
There is no longer a need to enforce physical distancing or other controls however where this is reasonably practicable agencies may wish to continue this where possible, at their discretion.  For example, agencies may keep Perspex counter screens in place at reception / public areas and larger spaces should be used for meetings or events, where possible.

Risk Review
Agencies should review risks associated with the return to pre-COVID-19 practices. For example, some workers may need to be refreshed on safety practices associated with re-starting certain operations or activities.
Agencies should also consider any risks that have changed / increased due to COVID-19 (mental health, fatigue etc.). 

Future Discussions
Going forward there are some areas that will be useful for us to explore further as health and safety leaders. 

We look forward to discussing topics related to COVID-19 including; Being prepared for future possible outbreaks, Flexible by default - health and safety implications and Lessons learned during COVID-19 at our Heads of Health and Safety and Small Agency Forums.