Does Green mean go?
As the year 2021 draws to a close, I think most of us will be happy to draw a line underneath it and look for a reboot in 2022. Looking back, it is hard to describe the full range of emotions that the year has delivered, and the effect it has had on our wellbeing. For me the constant uncertainty has been the biggest hurdle, not knowing what could potentially happen and how it will play out in our communities. From a health and safety perspective, this pandemic continues to provide a context in which we can collectively examine and understand the role Governments, regulators, employers, workers, and individuals play in maintaining health and safe environments. A big part of this discussion is where we choose to draw the line on personal freedom versus public responsibility.
The sharp end of the pencil at the present time is vaccination, and the ability of Governments and employers to mandate that certain sectors of the workforce must be vaccinated in order to continue in employment in that sector. The bigger picture is the effect that these mandates will have on creating division and tension within workplaces, families and communities. The simple argument here is that vaccination is an effective form of PPE, and like the use of gloves or hard hats or eye protection it can and should be mandated to anyone who would be at risk of harm without it, or potentially harm someone else. PCBU’s have a legal obligation to create a safe working environment and take all practical steps to keep their employees and the public safe.
However, in the hierarchy of controls PPE sits at the bottom of the triangle, in that it is the least effective in managing risk. In terms of the more effective, the elimination strategy has now been put aside, we cannot replace or substitute Covid -19, so we are left with engineering and administrative controls like social distancing, work bubbles, and other PPE like masks and gloves. I get the feeling that in the Governments response, almost all of the focus is being put on vaccination, when just as much or not more emphasis is needed on the other controls, which are more effective. Using vaccination as a justification for removing social distancing requirements seems to go against the logical progression of the controls.
The second issue is around human rights, and the ability for each individual to choose what they put inside their own bodies. I respect people’s right to choose in this regard, and I do not believe that individuals who make this decision should be marginalised. However, in the context of society at large, the decision to mandate sits entirely with the Government, and that people who disagree can voice their opinion at the ballot box. The role of the Government is also to provide information and education on both sides of the vaccination debate.
As a grandfather, to recently born baby, I would do everything in my power to minimise the chance of becoming infected and reduce the possibility that I could pass the virus on to my own or anyone else’s grandchildren. This is not a logical argument, but one based entirely on emotion. I am double vaccinated, but the real question for me is whether or not I chose to go to a crowded bar without a facemask once covid is established in the South Island? At the end of the day, it is up to us as individuals to make our own decisions around our health and safety. Governments and organisations can create systems and processes and cultures, but we all chose to either buy into them or not. In this context it does matter if you scan every time you go to the supermarket, but I do not believe that everybody does.
Back to the traffic lights, and the year 2022. I was always taught to slow down and take my foot off the accelerator when approaching a controlled intersection, even if the light was green. The rationale is that most accidents occur at intersections, especially when the light changes, and it was always better to be prepared to brake. I was also told that amber means proceed only if it safe to do so, and green means go. The choice is yours.
I would like to wish all Charter members a healthy and safe holiday season. I want to thank all of our Committee and Board members for giving their time and expertise to the benefit of the community, and all those who attended our workshops or utilised our resources. Also, a big thanks to Jocelyn for keeping the wheels turning and the car on the road.
I look forward to drawing the line under 2021, and hope that 2022 provides us with more certainty and a better year. Please look after yourself and others.
Paul Duggan, General Manager