Mental health considerations for workers required to quarantine or isolate in PCBU-provided accommodation

Workers who are required to spend time in quarantine or isolation at PCBU-provided accommodation, particularly when the person is alone, are at a higher risk of stress or anxiety.

PCBUs must consider the psychological, social, environmental and physical factors associated with quarantining, which increase the risk of psychosocial harm to workers.

PCBUs should consider the availability of other accommodation options for workers required to quarantine or isolate (e.g. double rooms) and if required investigate off-site accommodation options.

Research on the consequences of time spent in quarantine or isolation indicates that specific stressors can increase the risk of adverse psychosocial effects. These stressors include:

  • lack of autonomy or control
  • boredom
  • frustration
  • loneliness
  • inadequate supplies
  • inadequate information and uncertainty
  • fear of COVID-19 infection
  • stigma associated with quarantine/isolation.

PCBUs can address the following practical considerations to mitigate these stressors where workers are in mandatory isolation or quarantine at PCBU-provided accommodation.

Environmental considerations

Assess the location of accommodation, type of accommodation, equipment and supplies provided to workers in quarantine or isolation to determine they are adequate to meet their psychosocial and physical needs:

  • Provide workers in quarantine or isolation with adequate access to hygiene and cleaning products and establish a process for resupplying these items if needed.
  • Consider whether there is an area where workers who are in quarantine or isolation can be outside of their room for periods of time while still meeting the requirements of quarantine and isolation directions.
  • Provide equipment to assist in communication such as additional screens, iPads or mobile or landline phones as far as is practicable.
  • Maintain reliable internet access and make alternative arrangements in locations where access is not reliable.

Psychological considerations

Provide workers in quarantine or isolation with adequate information on:

  • State Government directions in relation to quarantine and isolation requirements, and how to comply with these requirements
  • site isolation procedures, including:
    • support services
    • welfare checks
    • food delivery and service options
    • entertainment and information services.

Establish processes to provide psychological support to workers in isolation and undertake assessment/s to identify workers at higher risk of mental health impacts due to quarantine or isolation requirements:

  • Actively promote psychological support services and encourage workers to use them.
  • Ensure workers in quarantine or isolation have ready access to these psychological support services.
  • Put additional supports in place for workers who may be at higher risk of harm to psychological health from the impact of quarantine/isolation (e.g. determined by pre-employment medical assessment, assessment at the time of being required to quarantine, or a history of mental ill-health).
  • Train personnel conducting welfare or health checks and check they are competent in conducting mental-state examinations.
  • Establish a site escalation procedure for episodes of mental ill-health.
  • Review any established site mental health evacuation/transport procedures to ensure compliance with government health directions should evacuation be required for personnel in quarantine or isolation.
  • Take measures to address possible stigma associated with personnel in isolation or quarantine.

Social considerations

Support workers in quarantine or isolation to maintain contact and communication with family, friends and other support persons off-site, and colleagues and support service personnel on-site:

  • Make arrangements and provide infrastructure to support off-site contact and communications for all personnel in quarantine or isolation to communicate with family, friends and other support persons.
  • Provide adequate and reliable means of reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation to support personnel in quarantine/isolation, for example:
    • prioritise network access for personnel in quarantine or isolation to allow for virtual interactions
    • establish other opportunities for virtual social contact for personnel in quarantine or isolation who may have a limited social network, or have less ability to maintain contact with their off-site social and support network while isolating in PCBU provided accommodation.
  • Establish multiple channels of communication with onsite personnel for workers to utilise dependent on the nature of their needs and supply contact details or other methods of contact. Helpful contacts could include:
    • supervisor
    • human resources
    • village catering or housekeeping
    • medical
    • security.

Physical considerations

Consider how the physical health needs of workers in isolation are being met:

  • Provide food options of adequate variety and volume, exercise options, medical services and supplies, and personal protective equipment.
  • Communicate adequate information regarding the medical management process and medical services available if workers in quarantine or isolation require medical attention.
  • In addition to welfare checks, regularly monitor the medical status and any change in medical status of workers in quarantine or isolation.
  • Communicate and promote strategies to maintain physical and psychological health to workers in quarantine or isolation.
  • Where guidance from, or consultation with, registered medical practitioners is available to those personnel providing site-based medical services to workers, communicate this capacity to personnel in quarantine or isolation.

Additional considerations

Establish supports to assist personnel providing services to workers in quarantine or isolation, including catering, housekeeping, medical and security personnel:

  • Allocate additional human resources to address increased workload.
  • Develop procedures or work instructions to guide personnel carrying out tasks which are new or different from normal duties in relation to the care and management of personnel in quarantine or isolation.
  • Provide personnel with additional training and equipment to assist them in delivering services to workers in quarantine, including training in any changed procedures or work instructions.
  • Provide personnel with supports to assist in the management and referral of workers who may experience adverse psychosocial effects resulting from quarantine or isolation.

Additional Resources

Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

Australian Government – Department of Health

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