Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is preparing for work to resume on state highway construction projects and road maintenance in Auckland and Northland after New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 on Tuesday 28 April.
Construction projects were shut down with the move to Alert Level 4 on March 26, and the only road maintenance carried out during lockdown has been essential work to keep the network safe for the movement of essential goods and to support lifeline services.
Waka Kotahi has been working closely with contractors and Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ) to plan for a safe return to work following the end of the Alert Level 4 lockdown period.
Waka Kotahi Senior Manager Project Delivery Andrew Thackwray says contractors are required to submit a detailed plan for managing their work force and work activity before they can return.
The CHASNZ standards and guidelines(external link) include measures for pre-planning work, documenting the health and safety of staff, ensuring safe physical distancing is maintained, cleaning of all plant, tools and vehicles, and being able to quickly and accurately trace people should they come in contact with someone who contracts COVID-19.
"The safety of workers and road users is our top priority, and we're working with contractors on specific COVID-19 plans for each of our worksites.
"The transition back to on site work will be different for every project and the timing will depend on the complexity of each project. Some on-site activity will be able to resume straight away, but it will take time for some sites and projects to be fully operational."
At Alert Level 3, a range of new measures will be in place including restricted access to the construction site, requirements for workers to maintain physical distancing, and the use of additional protective clothing.
At all Waka Kotahi sites, crews will go through a COVID-19 induction, learn the new practices and the protocols that will keep them, the surrounding community and road users safe.
Crews will form small working ‘bubbles’ and will stick together throughout the day while also maintaining a safe social distance.
On most sites a small number of staff are expected to be onsite performing set-up activities on Tuesday 28 April, with more workers returning in following days. Office staff and those who are not physically required to be on site will continue to work from home until further notice.
"We are committed to getting New Zealand moving again, but we will not compromise on the safety of road workers or of road users."
The completion dates for many state highway projects may be affected by the Alert Level 4 shutdown, the Alert Level 3 restrictions and other effects of Covid-19, but it is too early to say what the specific impact may be for individual projects.
The resumption of state highway maintenance will mean there are more workers on state highways. Mr Thackwray urged anyone who had to travel to take care when driving through work sites, be patient, cautious and comply with all temporary speed limits to keep workers safe.
"We request that physical distancing requirements be respected. Please do not approach our teams or enter our work sites without formal approval."
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