COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Frequently asked questions

This page contains frequently asked questions on COVID-19.

Is physical distancing required at work?

Appropriate physical distancing measures will depend on the workplace, work activities being conducted and the risks, and may include:

  • Providing information to workers on physical distancing requirements for the workplace.
  • If working with the public, providing information and guidance to the public on where to stand to ensure adequate physical distancing – for example signage and/or floor markings.
  • Using barriers to reduce contact with the public, eg Perspex screens for service areas.
  • Ensure adequate space is available for meetings, or hold teleconference or videoconference meetings.
  • Reviewing workstation arrangements, for example in offices or call-centres or similar, and increasing space between people where practicable.
  • Staggering staff lunchtimes/breaks.
  • Extending operating hours so that fewer staff are at work at any point in time.

I employ vulnerable workers, what should I do?

Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) that have workers who are at increased risk of adverse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 coronavirus due to pre-existing medical conditions or age should conduct a risk assessment including the current risk of community transmission. Where there is an increased risk, consider if the worker can work from home, or if the job can be modified to reduce risk factors such as contact with the public. Vaccination may be appropriate, based on medical advice.   

Our workers may come into close contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus. Should the workers use personal protective equipment (PPE)?

If a worker may come into close contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in the course of their work, the employer/PCBU must put controls measures in place to minimise the risk of a worker contracting the virus so far as practicable. This could involve:

  • Eliminating non-essential close tasks.
  • The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, eye protection and P2 or higher standard respirators.  However PPE must not be the only control considered. Workers required to use PPE must be trained in its correct use and disposal. Workers required to use fitted respirators due to contact with COVID-19 cases must be clean shaven and fit tested in accordance with AS/NZS 1715.  
  • Other controls should be used where practicable (e.g. having a competent person modify the workplace ventilation system to maximise fresh air intake).

Can an employer/PCBU direct a worker to stay away from their usual place of work?

Yes. An employer/PCBU is responsible for ensuring as far as practicable that workers are not exposed to hazards. In order to meet this requirement, the employer/PCBU must control hazards, and do what is practicable to eliminate/minimise the associated risks. A worker is required to comply with directions given by the employer/PCBU to manage safety or health risks.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. A risk assessment based on all of the available information from health authorities and having consulted with your workers will ensure that appropriate controls are put in place.

If you know a worker is confirmed to have COVID-19, you must ensure that the worker does not return to work while they are infectious. If you notice a worker exhibiting other signs they may be unwell (e.g. frequent sneezing) and you consider they are unfit for work, you should follow your usual workplace policies and procedures. This should include directing the worker to go home.

What can be done to reduce risks from a viral outbreak such as a COVID-19?

PCBUs need to keep up to date with the latest health warnings from the Australian and WA governments to ensure that any action taken is measured and appropriate.

If there is concern about the risk of workers being exposed to the virus at work, a risk assessment should be carried out with reference to the latest information available at the links below. PCBUs should develop prevention and control strategies appropriate to the workplace, in consultation with their workers, and ensure that all workers are aware of and follow these strategies.

These strategies may include:

  • Providing clear advice about quarantine periods following at-risk travel or contact with at-risk or unwell people, in accordance with advice from the Department of Health.
  • Encouraging workers to be vaccinated.
  • Fitness for work policies and procedures, including instructions on actions workers should take if they have symptoms consistent with a virus, such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance or shortness of breath. 
  • Planning for contingencies such as staff shortages.
  • Minimising or eliminating the need for work travel.
  • Reviewing cleaning and hygiene protocols.
  • Implementing physical distancing systems.
  • Reminding staff about the need to ensure good personal hygiene and encourage regular hand washing.
  • Using personal protective equipment where required based on risks.
  • Implementing strategies to manage workplace stress.
  • Ensuring safe systems of work are used for people working at home.
  • Providing information, instruction and training to workers on COVID-19 risks and control measures.
  • Regular communications with staff should the situation or organisational policies or procedures change.

Masks

When there are public health requirements for masks to be worn in my workplace and a worker has told me that they cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, what should I do to meet my duties as the employer/PCBU?

Public health advice is that face masks are effective in helping prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  Limited exemptions do apply to mandatory mask wearing requirements under the relevant Directions, including if the person has a physical or mental illness, condition or disability which makes wearing a face masks unsuitable.

Where it is a lawful requirement to wear a mask in workplaces, employers/PCBUs are advised to discuss these requirements with their workers.  Employers/PCBUs have an obligation to ensure safe systems of work are in place for staff and visitors to their sites, and this includes reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  If a worker is exempted from wearing a mask for medical reasons, the employer/PCBU should request a medical certificate and consider other mitigation measures to ensure workplace safety such as moving the worker into a non-customer facing role and providing sufficient physical distancing from other persons. It should be noted that medical certificates are usually written in general terms (for example, referring to “a medical condition”) and as such do not compromise the right to medical privacy.

There are public health requirements for masks to be worn in my workplace however I have a medical certificate stating I do not have to wear a mask. Can my employer/PCBU make me wear a mask?

Decisions around safe systems of work are for the employer/PCBU to determine based on the evaluation of risk factors, for example, the worker interaction with high risk groups, the proximity of working with others and the current level of community transmission. Such risk factors must be considered together with the medical certificate (stating an exemption from wearing a face mask is required for medical reasons) along with the practicability of using other controls, such as physical distancing. If a safe system of work cannot be assured you may not be able to do the task.

Do I need to wear a mask at work?

You must wear a mask at work when there is an applicable public health directive in place. Requirements and exceptions will be listed on WA.gov.au.

Why doesn’t my employer/PCBU have to provide a mask for me when there is a public health directive to wear them?

Employers/PCBUs must take reasonable steps to ensure that their workers comply with applicable Directions issued under the WA State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency, however employers/PCBUs are not independently requiring workers to wear masks.

Will I be provided with a specific mask or respirator if I need one for my particular role?

Yes, employers/PCBUs have a duty to provide specific masks or respirators to all workers who need to wear them for occupational safety and health reasons (for example, exposure to chemicals or dust).

 

 

Further information

 

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