The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require all employers to take care of the health and safety of their workers and others (e.g. customers and delivery drivers) at the workplace. This includes:
providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety; and
providing adequate facilities for staff to carry out their work. Employers must identify risks at the workplace, and where possible eliminate or minimise those risks.
If your business has been determined an essential service by government and you are permitted to continue operating, you must ensure any risks to your workers are eliminated or minimised as much as is reasonably practicable.
Physical distancing One of the most effective ways to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to limit physical proximity between workers and others. To encourage physical distancing you can do the following:
Hairdressers, barber shops and hair salons must ensure that there is no more than 1 person for every 4 square metres of space.
Use separate doors for entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between people
Rotate tasks to ensure no one worker has all the contact with customers
Ensure staff or break-rooms allow for physical distancing, and if not, close them to workers and arrange another suitable space
Request contactless payment if possible, over cash
Place signage about physical distancing around your premises where you can
Hygiene Environmental cleaning
The amount of time the COVID-19 virus survives on inanimate objects and surfaces will vary. Environmental cleaning is one way to remove the virus that causes COVID-19. Employers should ensure:
They provide surface wipes to clean counters, and equipment such as till, phones, keyboards and eftpos facilities
That frequently touched surfaces such as doors, handrails, windows and products are cleaned and disinfected frequently using appropriate detergent and disinfectant solutions
That customers are requested to only touch items they are interested in purchasing, and that people cleaning the workplace wear gloves and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves
See the Department of Health information sheet on environmental cleaning and disinfection-principles for COVID-19 for further information.
Worker hygiene Workers should be required to practice good hygiene, including:
frequent hand washing
limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands
covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing
Washroom facilities for workers should have adequate facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper. These must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order. Supplies of hand sanitiser should be provided around the office space, where possible.
Workers should also be informed about the risk of exposure and good hygiene through increased signage and information. The Australian Government Department of Health has a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These posters can be placed in client-facing work environments.
Consultation and communicating with workers You must consult with your workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. Allow workers to express views before you make any decisions. Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to this process and any changes.
The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination can provide more information about your duties to consult. You need to communicate clearly with workers about control measures. Provide clear direction and guidance about what is expected of workers.
Workers should know
when to stay away from the workplace
what action to take if they become unwell
what symptoms to be concerned about
Remind workers they have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns, and access to support services, including employee assistance programs.
What else can I do?
Keep your knowledge of the COVID-19 situation up-to-date. Follow advice from authoritative sources such as the Australian Government Department of Health and check daily for any updates to safety advice
Understand your business and its WHS hazards and risks. It may not be possible because of the work you do to facilitate all workers to work from home, but there are many steps you can take to minimise the risks in an office environment
Make sure your premises are properly resourced to manage WHS risks during the COVID-19 outbreak, and check that the resources are being used
Review your policies, procedures and reporting process to ensure they remain current for any incidents, hazards and other WHS issues that arise during this time. Update these materials if necessary
Ensure all that these are communicated clearly and processes are being followed
Consult with workers and ensure there is a means for them to raise any concerns about the steps you are taking to manage the risks.
For general advice for employers on managing risks to exposure to the COVID-19 virus, go to COVID-19 Information for workplaces
For further information on risk management, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks
For limits on public gatherings and definitions of essential activities, see the Department of Health - Limits on public gatherings for coronavirus (COVID-19).