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As a business, you owe legal obligations under health and safety law in New Zealand. Accordingly, you must take all reasonably practicable steps to protect your workers and ensure their safety. This includes minimising the risk of germs, infections and illnesses. Consequently, hygiene is a critical consideration when thinking of your health and safety planning. Good hygiene practices can make a big difference to the overall health of your employees at work. This article sets out an overview of your legal obligations regarding workplace hygiene in your business, including:

  • your primary obligation as a PCBU;
  • what your business should be doing to control infections; and 
  • your legal obligations concerning worker engagement.

Primary Obligations as a PCBU

All businesses in New Zealand owe duties under health and safety law as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). The most important of these is an overarching primary duty to ensure the health and safety of workers. In other words, your business must do everything reasonably practicable to protect your employees and anyone else affected by your business operations. Therefore, your obligations also extend to:

  • contractors; 
  • volunteers; and
  • anyone else carrying out work in your workplace. 

Regarding hygiene, the primary obligation under health and safety law means you must take steps to eliminate risks whenever you are reasonably able to do so. Ensuring good hygiene standards and practices is a standard way of taking steps to protect your workers. You may not be able to eliminate the risk of illnesses and germs completely. However, you must do whatever your business reasonably can to minimise the risk. 

How Your Business Can Control Infections

There are several measures your business can take to control infections and illnesses at work. Some of these will differ depending on your business’ industry and the nature of your business’ work. However, there are also standard best practices that your business should be looking to undertake. These practices aim to ensure good hygiene practices and minimise the risk of infections. 

Some examples include:

  • having a plan for controlling infections and encouraging good hygiene;
  • having a dedicated and comprehensive cleaning system or roster; 
  • checking for pests and controlling pests that do appear; 
  • monitoring the health of employees; 
  • educating employees about good hygiene practices; 
  • ensuring employees have access to hand sanitisers; 
  • keeping employees at home when they are sick; 
  • having an adequate ventilation system and regularly checking to ensure it is working; and
  • quickly resolving any problems with bathrooms and other areas where workers clean their hands. 

Ultimately, there are many different ways of controlling infections. If you are not sure what to do in the context of your business, consider speaking to a health and safety specialist to get bespoke advice. 

Your Obligations Concerning Worker Engagement

Health and safety law in New Zealand also imposes a duty on PCBUs to engage with workers on health and safety matters that affect them. This manifests in several different ways. As a starting point, your employees should be confident to make suggestions or raise issues around hygiene in the workplace. Likewise, they should feel free to make suggestions to improve the business’ hygiene practices. 

When developing a new health and safety policy or practice, you should always consult with your staff. You want to ensure they are feeding into that system and engaged in what you are planning. This improves the buy-in for a new process and means you are getting good feedback from workers about their day-to-day experience in the workplace. 

Key Takeaways

You have several legal obligations concerning hygiene in the workplace as a PCBU. These include a primary obligation to ensure the health and safety of your employees and take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise risks. Likewise, good hygiene is an integral part of this process. Further, establishing good practices and processes around hygiene is well worth doing. Finally, remember to also engage and consult with your workers. Not only do you have an obligation to do so under health and safety law, but your workers may also have great ideas from their day-to-day experience in the workplace. 

For more information about your legal obligations for workplace hygiene and health and safety, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your general obligation as a PCBU in terms of hygiene risks?

PCBUs must eliminate hygiene risks if they are reasonably able to. If they cannot eliminate the risks, they must do everything reasonably practicable to control and minimise the risk.

What can PCBUs do to control infection risks?

There are a range of measures PCBUs can take to control the risk of infections. For example, you can implement an infection control plan, ensure premises are regularly cleaned, check for pests, and ensure an adequate ventilation system.

Should businesses consult with workers in terms of hygiene plans?

Yes, PCBUs must consult with their workers and ensure that workers can identify existing and new health and safety risks and give their views and ideas on controlling and eliminating those. 

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