COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Frequently asked questions

This page contains frequently asked questions on COVID-19.

Is social distancing required at work?

Social distancing must be followed at work as far as practicable, based on principles published by the Department of Health. Risk assessments should be conducted and suitable control strategies implemented. Appropriate social distancing measures will depend on the workplace and work activities being conducted and may include:

  • Providing information to employees on social distancing requirements for the workplace.
  • If working with the public, providing information and guidance to the public on where to stand to ensure adequate social distancing – for example signage and/or floor markings.
  • Using barriers to reduce contact with the public, eg Perspex screens for service areas.
  • Discontinuing any non-essential meetings, or hold teleconference or videoconference meetings.
  • Where face to face meetings are essential, using a larger meeting room and move chairs further apart.
  • Stacking or removing excess chairs and use signage to indicate the safe number of occupants per room.
  • Reviewing workstation arrangements, for example in offices or call-centres or similar, and increasing space between people where practicable.
  • If employees are driving together, reduce the number of employees per vehicle, use the back seat for the passenger, and open the windows.
  • Staggering staff lunchtimes/breaks.
  • Extending operating hours so that fewer staff are at work at any point in time.
  • Eliminating activities where close contact is likely, e.g. promotional activities or in-store playgrounds.
  • Implementing working from home if appropriate.

Where it is not practicable to implement social distancing, consideration should be given to whether the task or service is essential and whether the risks can be adequately reduced. Non-essential services should be discontinued if risks cannot be reduced.

I have run out of hand sanitiser or P2 masks, what should I do?

Employers must as far as practicable eliminate the risk of a worker contracting COVID-19 coronavirus in the workplace. This means employers must provide a work environment in which, as far as is practicable, employees are not exposed to hazards. This includes access to facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper; and making sure facilities are kept clean and properly stocked.

If there are no supplies of masks available for purchase, an employer cannot be required to provide a mask. In those circumstances, an employer should consider what alternative measures or approaches can be taken to prevent exposure to contaminants, for example the use of re-useable respiratory protective equipment or local exhaust ventilation systems.

If there are no supplies of hand sanitiser available for purchase, an employer should provide access to soap and water and consider the use of gloves.

Ultimately, if an employer is unable to obtain necessary supplies, they should consider whether the risks posed to workers and others at the workplace are so great that workers should not be required to attend the workplace and perform work. This will need to be determined on a case by case basis through a risk assessment process.

I employ vulnerable workers, what should I do?

Employers that have employees who are at increased risk of adverse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 coronavirus due to pre-existing medical conditions or age should 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. Where this is not possible, workers should be encouraged to use existing leave entitlements.

Do workers need to wear surgical masks?

General COVID-19 coronavirus information on surgical masks and who should use surgical masks has been published by the Australian Government Department of Health.  Surgical masks are not currently recommended for healthy members of the public, or for customer service workers. 

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, employers 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 face masks.  However PPE must not be the only control considered as PPE by itself will not control the transmission of COVID-19 coronavirus. 
  • Other controls should be used where practicable (e.g. rideshare services requiring that passengers sit in the rear seat to maximise social distancing, or removing the requirement for people to sign for deliveries). 

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

An employer is responsible for ensuring as far as practicable that employees are not exposed to hazards. In order to meet this requirement, the employer must control hazards, and do what is practicable to eliminate/minimise the associated risks. An employee is required to comply with directions given by the employer 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?

Under OSH legislation, employers are required to provide and maintain, as far as is practicable, a working environment in which their workers are not exposed to health risks. This includes situations where employees and contractors may be at risk of contracting viruses such as the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Employers 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 employees 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. Employers should develop prevention and control strategies appropriate to the workplace, in consultation with their employees, and ensure that all employees 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
  • Fitness for work policies and procedures, including instructions on actions employees should take if they have symptoms consistent with a virus, such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath. 
  • Planning for contingencies such as staff shortages.
  • Minimising or eliminating the need for work travel.
  • Reviewing cleaning and hygiene protocols.
  • Implementing social 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 employees on COVID-19 risks and control measures.
  • Regular communications with staff should the situation or organisational policies or procedures change. 

Further information

 

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