2 May 2020

Few level 3 business breaches despite almost 1000 complaints this week - association

10:19 am on 2 May 2020

Few businesses are breaching pandemic rules, an employers' association says, despite 991 complaints being lodged against businesses since alert level 3 began this week.

Pizza, fast food worker in kitchen, takeaway.

Photo: 123RF

Of those, 380 are being looked into further, 75 of them by workplace regulator WorkSafe.

However, the Employers and Manufacturers Association said it was hearing of few actual breaches, and that most businesses had a pandemic plan.

In a survey of 300 businesses, only 8 percent did not have a plan, which is a requirement to open under level 3.

"We're not hearing about breaches and we're not hearing a lot of inspection activity by WorkSafe in the actual workplaces," association chief executive Brett O'Riley said.

"We're hearing of cars being stopped by police, but not inspection activity so that's a good sign so far."

The high level of compliance showed that lots of checking in by phone by WorkSafe was about right, he said.

The agency is reluctant to send inspectors out to workplaces.

"Given that they only have a small number of inspectors, and visiting to and from sites runs the risk of transmission, I can understand them taking a cautious approach. And based on what we've seen around compliance to date, I think it justifies them not needing to do more inspections than normal," O'Riley said.

Businesses understood the system and "in some ways, it's the normal process playing itself out", he said.

WorkSafe said it had just updated its Covid-19 advice for level 3.

WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes

Phil Parkes. Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes said the agency would use its suite of enforcement tools if a business did not comply and "inspectors will attend as necessary".

"However, we do not have powers under HSWA [Health and Safety at Work Act] in such circumstances to close a business down for non-compliance with Covid restrictions.

"The police have such powers under the Health Act and so we would call them in to achieve closure where necessary."

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway asked if he supported WorkSafe's approach, in a statement said this was "operational".

"I am advised that most employers and workers are following the rules admirably, but health and safety inspectors are getting out to worksites as necessary, both proactively and reactively."

Complaints by the numbers

From midnight Monday 27 April to 10pm Thursday 30 April, there were 2101 reports of breaches - 991 about businesses, 785 about individuals, 325 about mass gatherings.

Of them, 380 have been referred further on to:

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - 114
  • Police - 111
  • WorkSafe - 75
  • Ministry for Primary Industries - 18
  • 62 are either in process or closed

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