COVID – 19 is a health and safety risk. Employers have obligations to ensure the health and safety of workers and others. They must have a plan on what will be done to protect and support workers and health and safety representatives must be consulted on this plan.
We know that the best way to protect workers and the public is to make sure that employers:
- Apply social distancing measures including, where practicable;
b. facilitating working from home or remote work,
c. keeping staff separated in the workplace (keeping a safe distance of 1.5 meters and no more than 1 person per 4 squared
. d. minimising the need for close contact (such as unnecessary meetings),
e. utilising alternative working hours and shifts (where agreed with staff) to minimise contact
2. Identify those who are potentially infected early and support them to isolate whilst waiting for test results
3. Protect vulnerable workers who are likely to experience more severe illness by eliminating or minimising their exposure
4. Minimise the potential of spread, isolate and support those who are at higher risk of exposure for COVID -19. For example, close contact of someone with COVID-19 or have returned from travel in certain locations
5. Quarantine and support those who are infected early until they are healthy and no longer contagious (for at least 14 days)
6. Apply workplace hygiene practices including more frequent cleaning, regular hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers
WHY IS SUPPORT IMPORTANT?
It is essential that workers are supported to take the measures necessary to help control the spread of the virus. Workers who are not supported to isolate are at great risk of not identifying themselves. All workers need access to paid special leave and be supported to identify potential exposure and isolate at home. Casual workers, and others without access to leave, are more likely to attend work whilst sick for fear of a loss of income or future shifts.
Unions are calling for 2 weeks paid special leave to be granted to any worker impacted by COVID-19 that is required to isolate or is unable to work.
Work, Health and Safety Laws are clear [WHS Act s47-49, Victoria OHS Act s35-36, WA OHS Act s35] employers must consult with HSRs and workers.
A workplace plan for dealing with COVID-19 must include the following:
- the information, training and support and local measures for infection control including:
o social distancing and isolation
o appropriate hygiene
o work from home arrangements where practicable.
- how to report any concerns in a way that encourages workers reporting and ensures they are not discriminated against or suffer any adverse consequences. Supporting workers to take the necessary precautions is essential. Misinformation or the poor or adverse treatment of workers identifying exposure will increase the risk of spread
- arrangements for those required to be away from work, as a result of infection control measures.
paid special leave for confirmed cases,
o paid special leave for self-isolation as a result of contact with confirmed cases, or whilst awaiting test results
o paid special leave for self-isolation if returning from travel to certain locations
- what to do if there a suspected case or person with COVID 19 has been at the workplace. In some circumstances this will require relocating workers from impacted area until a deep clean is undertaken
- the contingency plans for leave, reallocation and re-organisation of work, if health authorities shut down schools, public events, work sites to ensure workers can meet requirements to care for children or other dependent family members
Information –to all workers and everyone who is in the workplace,
- Provide information and training – clear, concise health information needs to be easily available, in many forms and languages e.g. posters, leaflets, emails, small video clips [see resources list]
- Work must provide information on how physical distancing is practiced. This obviously varies greatly depending upon the work, but everyone must know what and how to do what they can.
- Work must make it easy for everyone to practice good hygiene –
- easy access to water and soap
- easy access to hand sanitisers (60% alcohol)
- easy access to rubbish disposal for tissues, disposable hand towels [hand dryers are not recommended]
- household disinfectant for hard surfaces especially where members public are involved.
- What to do if a “suspected or confirmed case” has been in the workplace. Contact with a confirmed or suspected case may require people to go into self-isolation and to seek medical assistance. However, casual contact, where there has been less than 15 minutes face to face contact or less than 2 hours in a shared closed space with the symptomatic person, will only require them to monitor their health.
- What procedures will be in place to inform HSRs and workers about suspected and/or confirmed cases who have been at work, including what action is being taken to follow up close contacts. Individual names cannot be shared, but non identifying information can be