Safe Work Australia (SWA) is an Australian government statutory body established in 2008 for the purpose of developing national policy relating to workplace health and safety. A core function of SWA’s work is developing and maintaining an evidence base to inform workplace health and safety best practice, and minimise risk around work-related death, injury and illness.
In early 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of a new virus, COVID-19, to be a pandemic requiring a coordinated international response to reduce the spread of infection. With the current health crisis affecting many businesses across the country, SWA has published relevant advice on how to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace and help limit the spread.
SWA recommends that every employer implement the following controls at their workplace to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Working from home and physical distancing
On 29 March 2020, the Prime Minister of Australia indicated that all employees should be encouraged to work from home wherever and whenever possible. In circumstances where employees must attend the workplace, implement physical distancing by ensuring employees remain a minimum of 1.5m apart (i.e. avoid meetings where possible, space desks apart etc). Ensure employees are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage anyone who displays these symptoms not to come to work.
Encourage good hygiene practices
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads easily from person to person via infected droplets from exhaling, sneezing or coughing. People may contract the virus by touching an infected surface or object, and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes. Good hygiene is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. Workplace hygiene measures should include:
- Frequently handwashing with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds).
- Regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Limit contact with others, including shaking hands.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and face.
- Cover mouths while coughing or sneezing with a clean tissue or elbow.
- Provide access to hand hygiene facilities (including access to soap, water, tissues, toilet paper, hand sanitiser etc.)
- Provide facilities for employees to safely dispose of tissues and other personal hygiene products.
Using signage and other resources
Safe Work Australia has collated a range of posters and resources that employers can use around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures they can take to help stop the spread.
- Washing your hands
- Using hand sanitiser
- How to stop the spread and stay healthy
- How to keep mentally healthy
- Checklist ‘What can I do to keep my worker safe at the workplace and limit the spread of COVID-19?’.
Regular sanitisation and disinfection
The amount of time COVID-19 survives on objects and surfaces will vary. Environmental cleaning is one way to remove COVID-19 particles. By now, most businesses will have implemented a cleaning schedule appropriate for their workplace and operations.
Any areas that are frequented by employees or customers should be regularly cleaned and sanitised, with high touch areas (such as doorknobs, taps, sinks, keyboards, tables etc) cleaned multiple times a day. Employees should also be encouraged to regularly clean their personal property (including mobile phones) with disinfectant. Regular disinfection of high touch surfaces will help minimise the risk of second contact and transmission.
Proactive decontamination is recommended for critical assets to remain operational and mobilised. GCG can conduct clearance inspections and assessments to determine the effectiveness of hygiene intervention practices used in the workplace. We use specialised scientific testing equipment and a range of qualitative assessment methods to review the site. Read more about GCG’s COVID-19 Sanitisation Assessment process.
Industry-specific Advice to Minimise Risk
Safe Work Australia has developed a range of industry-specific fact sheets that outline key information to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Building and Construction
- Office Workers
- Delivery Drivers
- Taxi and rideshare services
- Road Freight
- Warehousing and Logistics
- Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) and Drive-in Drive-Out (DIDO) workers
- Stevedores and port operations
- Early childhood education
- Food processing and manufacturing
- Small Businesses
- Public Transport
COVID-19 Incident Notification Fact Sheet is also available for employers on the approach to COVID-19 incident notification laws in each jurisdiction, including details on how to notify when required.
Safe Work Australia are continually refining their website to ensure they are providing relevant and up-to-date information and advice.
For the latest information about COVID-19 in Australia, please visit australia.gov.au.
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