The ongoing spikes of COVID-19 cases across the country has put Australian workers on edge once again. While most employees are grateful to have consistent employment and are working hard to maintain productivity in their workplace, what’s really on their mind is their risk of contracting the virus while at work — and the risk of bringing it back home to their family.
This blog takes a look at your responsibility to enforce the National COVID-19 Workplace Principles and ensure the safety of your workers. Use it as a checklist for your site action plan. Taking clear and definitive action to minimise the risk of the virus spreading in your workplace gives your staff the confidence to come to work — and it’s also a legal requirement under WHS legislation.
Adopting the COVID-19 Workplace Principles
Here’s a quick introduction to the 10 COVID-19 Workplace Principles and what they mean for your business. We’ve explained them below in simple English.
- Worker’s have a right to a safe workplace.
- COVID-19 falls under work health and safety laws.
- Employers must assess the level of COVID-19 risk to their workers and develop suitable control measures.
- Employers must stay informed, and heed the latest advice from government health services — then swiftly implement changes to operating procedures when required.
- Business must take clear actions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Businesses must be ready to respond to actual cases of COVID-19 in their own workplace.
- A consistent response by all businesses — across all states and territories — is the most effective approach.
- Safe Work Australia is the go-to hub for information about COVID-19 safety in the workplace.
- State WHS Regulators will also provide COVID-19 advice, education and guidance.
- A National Commission has been appointed to support Safe Work Australia’s efforts to provide Australian workplaces with practical guidance about COVID-19.
We suggest downloading the principles from SafeWork Australia and formally adopting them as company policy. But remember, having a set of principles on the wall won’t mean much without clear, definitive action.
Reducing the number of people in the workplace
Reducing the number of people in the workplace reduces the chance of infections.
- Have people work from home where possible.
- Look for alternative ways to deliver products and services that reduce the amount of customer contact points. Eg, online ordering, payment, and delivery.
- Encourage the use of email or video conferencing for meetings so workers don’t need to share meeting tables or use common chairs.
- Limit the number of customers who are allowed entry into the office, store, or showroom.
Screening people at the front entrance
Screen everyone before entering your shop, office, or job site — including employees, contractors, customers, delivery people, visitors, and sales reps.
- Require all people entering the site to sign in via your electronic sign-in system.
- Screen visitors by taking body temperatures and asking pre-entry questions.
- Inform all visitors and workers of site rules and COVID-19 infection controls that are in place.
- Use a contactless entry system that allows people to sign in using their mobile devices and QR codes.
- Deny entry to anyone who refuses to provide clear information about their recent travel history and health status.
Implementing infection controls
Make sure your employees, contractors and site visitors abide by infection controls.
- Minimise or eliminate any areas where people need to share surfaces.
- Remove the need to share stationery or pens at locations (eg, sign-in visitor books) by replacing these with digital options.
- Audit your workplace to identify areas of cross-contamination and use the hierarchy of controls to eliminate these where possible.
- Have strict procedures for physical distancing and ensuring that people stay at least 1.5 metres apart at all times.
- Mark out spaces for people waiting in queues.
- Rearrange office desks, waiting room chairs, benches, and tables so they are further apart.
- Have clear procedures that address employees and visitors who are sick or displaying signs of illness.
- Conduct training sessions and teach sneezing etiquette, proper handwashing techniques, and the need for social distancing.
- Limit handshaking and similar social contact.
- If you’re a healthcare or aged care workplace, have your workers undertake the Australian government’s free online training module.
Responding to COVID-19 infections
Make sure everyone knows what to do if they get sick, and have clear procedures for dealing with a suspected outbreak of COVID-19.
- Isolate people with symptoms of COVID19 and have them wear PPE while they leave the premises.
- Don’t wait for positive test results before taking action on a suspected COVID-19 case.
- Request a quarantine clearance before allowing anyone on site who has returned from overseas travel or had a family member test positive to COVID-19.
Disinfecting, sanitising and hand washing
Keep the workplace clean, tidy and sanitised.
- Use alcohol based hand sanitisers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.
- Install additional hand washing stations.
- Provide information about where to find hand sanitising stations and PPE.
- Remind staff to wash hands after cash transactions and customer interactions.
- Sanitise public areas and surfaces several times a day. Eg, handrails, counter tops, door knobs, elevators, EFTPOS terminals, staff rooms.
- Have workers regularly clean their personal property at work. Eg, work stations, keyboards, mobile phones, tablets, screens, sunglasses, car keys.
- Wear gloves, masks and other PPE when cleaning and sanitising.
- Safely dispose of soiled paper towel, empty hand sanitisers, and used PPE.
Use contact tracing to ensure that if someone does test positive for COVID19 (or needs to self isolate due to exposure) they can be located.
- Have methods for capturing customer and visitor data.
- Record entry-in and entry-out times — as well as names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Advise site visitors that data may be collected by health authorities and government agencies.
Need help enforcing infection controls and contact tracing?
Rapid Global has solutions to assist your workplace in your efforts to implement COVID-19 control measures. Why not get in touch, talk to our sales team, and request a free demonstration of our safety management software. Get in touch today.