Safe to start guidance for NZ forestry operations

Friday 24 Apr 2020

This COVID-19 Protocol Document has been developed by industry representatives across New Zealand. It is a great example of collaboration and cooperation across the industry and thank you to the many people who contributed. The document covers the extra measures required in all parts of the forestry supply chain from forestry nurseries, land preparation and planting through to harvesting, processing and exports.

The protocols meet the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) requirements to operate at Alert Level 3, and Alert Level 4 if permitted, and has been reviewed by WorkSafe and the Forestry Industry Safety Council (FISC). The document has been presented to MPI to demonstrate that the forestry sector is well prepared to begin business with COVID-19 safe practices.

There is no room for complacency. The forest industry is very fortunate to be allowed to work at Level 3 and the use of COVID-19 safe practises is of critical importance to the continued success of our industry. If we have further cases or outbreaks of COVID-19 in Level 3 then NZ will very quickly be put back to Level 4. As forestry is not an essential service this will have significant consequences for our sector and those who work in it.

At Level 3 MPI, WorkSafe and Police NZ will all be authorised to visit, and audit registered operating businesses to verify COVID-19 safe practices are being implemented effectively. Use this document as a guide to develop your own COVID-19 safe practises for your business and workplace in discussion with your workers and your supply chain connections. Document what has been agreed and check in with your people that these measures are working. Be prepared to adapt as needed.

The document reinforces the Ministry of Health existing guidance to keep yourself and others safe:

• Maintain physical distancing; Alert Level 3: Stay 1 metre apart; Alert Level 4: 2 metres apart.
• Wash hands for 20 seconds regularly with soap and dry thoroughly or use sanitiser
• Clean and disinfect common contact surfaces frequently and keep other surfaces clean
• Provide PPE only if appropriate.

Our focus is a safe restart when we move to Alert Level 3. This is not a return to business as usual. In addition to COVID-19 safe practices we must consider other pressures arising from the shut down and our existing critical risks in forestry. These additional pressures, very real concerns relating to financial pressures and future of work, may increase the already significant risks associated with forestry operations and must be effectively managed alongside the COVID-19 infection risks.

This is also the longest break from work that many people will have had. Be aware of your people’s mind set, physical fitness and general health and wellbeing when they return to work. Ensure you are aware of any pre-existing health conditions of any workers or of their family / dependents within their existing ‘bubble’.

A well planned and phased return to work addressing COVID-19 safe practises, the pressures introduced from the shutdown and our known industry risks is needed to ensure a safe restart of the whole industry.

Additional information that came out mid-week in the WorkSafe endorsed version of the guidance includes;

• All business need a plan to manage the risks of Covid-19. Businesses need to look at their operations and identify what work can be done safely. If they can't keep people Covid-19 safe, then the work should not be done.
• Physical distancing requirements at Level 3 are: 1 metre in a controlled work environment, 2 metres outside home or on public transport
• All works sites must have soap and water/hand sanitiser available
• You must have a register for all workers, including those travelling in work vehicles, visitors and service providers with contact details recorded to ensure contact tracing can be done by Ministry of Health if there is a COVID-19 case at your workplace.
• When car-pooling, the maximum number of people in a car is 2. The sole passenger should sit in the rear left-hand side passenger seat, diagonally opposite the driver.
• When travelling in larger vehicles people should only use the window seats in each row and should use alternative rows.
• When travelling in vehicles with more than one person, run air-conditioning on fresh air not recirculate.

Source: FISC

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