Diseases and health - Frequently asked questions

This page contains frequently asked questions on diseases and health.

How can I prevent getting infectious diseases at work?

Conscientious use of standard precautions will minimise the risk of workers acquiring infections and transferring infections between persons. Some infections may pose an increased risk for pregnant workers and immunosuppressed individuals, and additional measures may be needed for some diseases requiring isolation. Standard precautions include:

  • hand washing after any contamination of hands;  
  • care of intact normal skin;  
  • protection of damaged skin by covering with a waterproof dressing or by gloves;  
  • proper handling and disposal of sharps;  
  • good hygiene practices to prevent most infections;  
  • the use of personal protective equipment; and  
  • containment of all blood and body fluids, ie confining spills, splashes and contamination of the environment and workers to the smallest amount possible.  

What can be done to prepare for the possibility of pandemic influenza?

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 ('the Act'), employers are required to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes situations where employees and contractors may be at risk of contracting influenza during a pandemic. 

If there is concern about the risk of employees being exposed to influenza while at work, a risk assessment should be carried out with reference to information available at the sites shown at the end of this advice. Employers should develop prevention and control strategies appropriate to the workplace, in consultation with their employees and ensure that all employees are aware of these strategies. These strategies may include plans to deal with contingencies such as staff shortages or infection control requirements arising from an influenza pandemic.  

Further information on the Western Australian Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza

Information about pandemic planning at the workplace is available on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Should I inform my employer if I have an infectious disease?

Under OHS legislation, employees have an obligation to cooperate with their employer to help the employer comply with occupational health and safety obligations, and to ensure the health and safety of others in the workplace who may be affected by the employee’s acts or omissions. Workers may be required to notify their employer of incidents where they may expose (or have potentially exposed) a fellow worker or member of the public to certain diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis B or C. Notification of such incidents is subject to privacy and discrimination legislation. 

A list of diseases that employers are required to notify to the WorkSafe Commissioner is provided in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.

If you have a short-term infectious illness, speak with your doctor about the type of work you do, and whether you need to stay home until recovered to avoid infecting others. 

Should employers provide vaccination for hepatitis B?

Where there is a high risk of contracting hepatitis B at work, a vaccination protocol should be included in a policy for prevention and control of infectious disease for the workplace and where needed, vaccination should be available free of charge. Employees should always be given comprehensive information regarding hepatitis B and vaccination and advised to discuss vaccinations with a medical practitioner. 

What should I do if I find used syringes at my workplace?

The Department of Health provides guidelines on what to do if used syringes are found.  

Notify your employer if you find used syringes at your workplace.  Your employer should provide information to workers and have a policy that outlines the procedure to be followed. 

Can I get HIV by casual contact in the workplace?

No, HIV cannot be transmitted from contact with: 

  • toilets or bathrooms; 
  • food; 
  • cutlery or crockery; or  
  • air - unlike the viruses that cause colds, HIV cannot be spread through the air.

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