Omicron looks certain to sweep across New Zealand over the coming months and experience overseas suggests this highly infectious Covid-19 variant is going to disrupt supply chains and leave businesses without enough workers to operate either because they are sick or are having to isolate.
That means now is the time to make any last-minute improvements to business continuity and worker wellbeing plans, including ways to reduce the spread of the infection and to help workers and businesses recover as quickly as possible.
Safetree’s latest Covid-19 guidance, Forestry Work Under the Covid-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light System), contains information to help businesses do this. This includes how to assess the risk to workers, put in place controls to protect people (and your business) and what to do if someone at work gets sick.
The guide includes links to official information about requirements at different traffic light levels. The government said today that when Omicron enters the community the country would move back into the Red traffic light setting within 24 to 48 hours. It said that lockdowns are not part of the traffic light system, and while they are still an option if required, they won’t be used as they were in 2020 and 2021.
Safetree’s guide also includes a link to the government’s tool to help businesses decide if they should introduce a vaccine mandate. Under the tool, a business must answer ‘yes’ to at least three out of four questions before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for a particular role.
While the outdoor nature of harvesting and silviculture operations would appear to reduce the chances of forestry businesses meeting the threshold, companies should be aware that this could be affected by crews travelling long distances together in vehicles.
Experience in New Zealand and overseas shows that vaccination remains the most effective way to protect people, businesses and communities.
We also need to keep following the ‘golden rules’ that applied to earlier Covid-19 variants, including staying home if sick and getting tested, using the Covid tracer app, keeping your distance from strangers and wearing masks, and keeping plant and vehicles clean. Working and travelling in ‘bubbles’ also means that if someone gets sick, fewer people will have to test and isolate.
Everyone needs to be prepared for being sick at home, and the Covid-19 website has a checklist you can download and use to help you prepare.
If you haven’t already done so, now would also be a good time to talk to contractors, clients, trucking companies, and other suppliers about how you can work together to cope with supply chain disruptions over the coming months.