By: Safework Australia
Safework Australia has updated their website to provide a wealth of information in preparedness for lifting of restrictions or to help those still being able to operate.
In addition to these there is also a number of checklists which will assist you in identifying practicable steps ensure the health and safety of your workplace. These will also identify deficiencies in your current cleaning practices, as well as the practicability of physical distancing measures.
There is also a high-level workplace checklist available.
Duty of care
It is important to review this material as it evidences publicly available information relevant to your duty of care in maintaining a safe workplace. To put it another way, a failure to have reviewed and taken into account this information could demonstrate a breach of your duty of care if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs at your workplace, particularly if there is a clear link between the infection and a failure to take steps that have been recommended.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to anything used or worn to minimise risk to worker health and safety. It can be used to supplement the other control measures put in place at your workplace to protect against COVID-19 including good hygiene measures, physical distancing, environmental cleaning and providing workers with information and training. You must implement more control measures to protect against COVID-19 than only PPE.
Common PPE that can be used to protect against COVID-19 include:
- eye protection, and
The use of some masks, gowns and disposable suits is restricted to healthcare settings. It is not recommended that these types of PPE are used outside of healthcare to protect against COVID-19. More information about using these PPE in health care can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
The type of PPE you provide will depend on your workplace and the outcomes of consultation and your risk assessment.
Eye protection, in the form of safety glasses, goggles or a face shield, can be used as PPE for protecting against the risks of COVID-19.
Eye protection can assist to act as a physical barrier from droplet spray and prevent unintentional rubbing of eyes between hand washing. Eye protection may be necessary for workers who are in close proximity to droplet spray, for example health workers, police, corrections and security work. However, for many workplaces, eye protection will not be a required control measure.
Good hygiene practices should be followed if eye protection is used.
More information about using eye protection in healthcare settings can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Do I need to provide PPE?
You must provide workers with appropriate PPE, and information and training on how and why they are required to use it. Depending on your workplace (type of work, the workers and others who come into the workplace), PPE can include gloves, eye protection and face masks. However, PPE will not be required for many workplaces.
PPE alone will not protect workers. You must implement a range of control measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including good hygiene measures, physical distancing (keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart), cleaning and disinfecting and providing workers with information and training.
For further information about PPE including additional employer obligations, go to the personal protective equipment
Do I need to talk to my workers about PPE?
Yes. You must consult with your workers about the control measures you will put in place to manage the risks of COVID-19, including PPE. If, after consultation, you decide to require your workers to wear PPE you must provide them with appropriate instruction and training on how to wear it safely and correctly.
For more information, see our consultation information.
The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination can also give you more information about your general duties to consult.
Do I need to install screens in the workplace?
Perspex screens (also known as sneeze guards) can be considered at workplaces where workers are in close proximity to each other for long periods. For example, a perspex screen could be considered where two workers work side by side or back to back for a shift.
The current Australian Government advice is that it is not necessary to install a screen between workers and the public (customers) as the interaction time between them is shorter. However, many businesses have chosen to protect workers by installing these screens including retail stores, pharmacies and doctor’s surgeries.
Perspex screens come in many different sizes and shapes and can be custom made for the workplace. Generally, they have a space cut out to allow for exchange between the worker and a member of the public or a patient, with the screen covering the upper half of the body and head.
If you choose to install a perspex screen you need to ensure that the screen is fit for purpose and protects workers from droplet spray. Completing a risk assessment will assist you in deciding what type of screen is best for your workplace. The screen must allow the worker to safely work and protect their face from exposure to droplet spray. Be aware that installing a perspex screen may result in other WHS risks that you will need to consider.
You must consult with workers about installing perspex screens and must provide appropriate training and instruction to workers who will use them, if you decide to install them.
Perspex screens should be cleaned in the same manner as other frequently handled objects or surfaces.
Our cleaning guide provides more information on cleaning and disinfecting, including for specific surfaces.
To ensure this information is as accessible and easy to understand as possible, we refer to ‘employers’ and their responsibilities.
However, under the model WHS laws, duties apply to any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) which includes employers, but also others who engage workers. For more information about who is a PCBU see our Interpretive Guideline – model Work Health and Safety Act – the meaning of ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’.
If you need help deciding how WHS laws apply to you or what to do at your workplace, contact your WHS regulator.