The health and safety of employees
Officers have an obligation to ensure the safety, health and welfare of their workers and others for the business undertaking they are responsible for. This obligation hasn’t been relaxed by the current government changes and clearly COVID-19 is a hazard to workers. This means it is imperative that as an employer, you have a COVID-19 plan in place to ensure you reasonably reduce the WHS risk associated with COVID-19 to your workers. Refer to the appropriate Act in your state to learn more, however as a start you can take a look at what is required on the Safe Work Australia site here.
Developing your plan
All businesses must be considering their work processes to ensure that they are reasonably protecting their customers and workers from COVID-19. As an officer you need to carry out the appropriate risk assessment to ensure all risks are mitigated as far as reasonably practicable.
In conducting the risk assessment it is important to understand that if, for example, businesses are not able to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (such as dust masks) because of shortages, you cannot use this as an excuse not to use one, and must make other changes to the work environment to limit the risk.
When undertaking your risk assessment of new arrangements or processes you also need to make sure that if the changes you are making to try and reduce the risk are still not safe, or do not reasonably reduce the risk, then the work should not go ahead. This is regardless of what Government practices are in place -that is, even if PM ScoMo says its essential work or can go ahead if your risk assessment deems it too high a risk, then the work should not go ahead! The buck stops with the Officer authorising the activity to proceed.
In conducting the risk assessment some of the things you will need to consider include:
- Worker and customer hygiene
- Social distancing
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Working from home
- Stress and psychological safety
- Emergency planning
An approach we have applied in workplaces is to consider:
- What are the SURFACES where we can reasonably foresee contact occurring and the potential for virus transmission?
- What are the SPACES in the workplace where typically workers are likely to congregate, and the risk of transmission is reasonably foreseeable?
SPACES where transmission may occur
Once your COVID-19 plan is in place, you need to ensure you are communicating this clearly and honestly with workers and others involved in your business.
Work arrangements and processes
If your business has changed its work arrangements as a result of COVID-19 and/or government requirements, you must undertake a risk assessment of these changes in consultation with your workers, for example, working from home presents its own safety challenges as we spoke about in our previous article.
Your COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Plan
The key takeaway here is that existing WHS regulations and requirements still apply during this time. As a potentially catastrophic hazard, specific COVID-19 risk assessments and plans are imperative to ensure you meet your obligations and protect yourself and your workers.
Take our free COVID-19 Risk Assessment here >
Better understand your current risk profile in relation to COVID-19 and determine what steps you need to take next.
Get in touch
If you need help creating or managing your COVID-19 risk assessment and plan we are here to help. Please get in touch to discuss your needs.