With Covid-19 vaccination mandates lifting in NZ (April 4th 2022) it seems like the somewhat controversial topic at work is gone. However, for many companies the topic should be looked at more closely when it comes to immunisations protecting us from other workplace diseases workers are at risk of.
Immunisations as a Hazard Risk Control
There are many other diseases found in the workplace that we should be using immunisations as a control for. Many companies over-look immunisations as a control on their hazard risk register and employee engagement.
Many jobs have a higher risk of exposure to infectious diseases, and for some, there is even a higher risk of spreading these diseases to people who are either too sick or too young to be immunised. Some jobs that may have a risk of coming into contact with infectious diseases include:
•Health Care, Aged Care or Disability Care Workers
•People regulary working with children, older people or people with a disability
•People working with animals (livestock transporter, vet, farmer, abattoir workers, groomers)
•Emergency and essential services workers
•People exposed to blood, body fluids or sewerage
•Plumbers and drainlayers
•Childcare or child education workers
•People who handle human tissue at work (eg. tattooists, embalmers, body piecers, funeral workers)
What Immunisations Are Needed?
Alongside the routine immunisations you should have received when you were younger and any booster immunisations required, some different immunisations that are needed for some high-risk jobs include:
• Influenza (Flu Jab)
• Whooping Cough
• Hepatitis A
• Hepatitis B
• Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
• Q Fever
• Rabies / Lyssavirus
• Meningococcal Disease
• IPV (Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough and Polio)
Remember to keep your immunisations up to date, not all immunisations recommended for people in higher risk occupations provide lifelong immunity. For example Influenza vaccine is a seasonal immunisation and is recommended every year. If you are unsure if you are still immunised for any of the above, please discuss with your doctor or health professional.
How to assess if immunisations are required as a control?
When considering immunisations as a control you need to identify and consider:
• Is there a hazard of infectious disease?
• Is there any government guidance available for your industry about infectious diseases?
• Get advice from a health professional (Occupational Health Nurse, Doctor etc)
• What is the level of risk? (Risk Matrix used)
• The hierarchy of controls needed to control the risk
When completing the Risk Assessment on the hazard you would want to consider the level risk rating without any controls. Then look at if the risk level be reduced further using controls.
Consider the hierarchy of controls that could be implemented to reduce the risk level eg. elimination, isolation, engineering, and substitution controls prior to the administrative and PPE controls if reasonably practicable.
Immunisations are an administrative control on the Hierarchy of Controls.
Re-calculate the risk level and ask if the control implemented has lowered the risk level to a reasonable level? Could further control options be implemented to lower the risk level even further?
Who would pay for the immunisations?
If the immunisation is a control on the hazard risk register, the workplace would ideally pay for the immunisations so they can ensure that workers have the immunisations available, records of the immunisations occurring are available and updated as required, and the company is doing what it says it is doing.
Who would pay for immunisations would need to be outlined in Employment agreements, and / or outlined as an initial requirement as part of the employment hiring process. It needs to be explained to the worker why immunisations are used as a control and the health risks that they will face in the workplace.
The employee has to agree to receiving the immunisations.
Our team are available if you require assistance with Risk Assessments and Hazard Risk Registers. Please contact us if you require any advice.