With most Australian workplaces enforcing a working from home policy, including it being mandatory requirement for those living in Victoria’s stage 4 restrictions, it is fair to say the modern day workplace norm has shifted. However, it may be time to think about what your workplace will look like once the Covid-19 curve has been sufficiently “flattened” and the more restrictive stages of Covid-19 are eased.
When decided whether to transition your employees back to working on site, it is important to consider whether your health and safety protocols are adequate. We recommend considering the following:
Should you conduct health screenings and temperature checks?
When transitioning your employees back to work, it is important to consider whether a health check will ensure all employees are protected and the risks of infection are mitigated. That is, extra precautionary measures such as temperature checks, may be useful.
Do you have a dedicated Health and Safety officer?
This is a very sensitive time for employees and they are likely to have concerns and fears around working on site. It is important to have a comprehensive complaints process in place to ensure that there is an avenue for their concerns to be quickly addressed internally. It helps both your employees and your business to identify gaps in your health and safety protocols. Perhaps consider introducing a dedicated health and safety officer.
Is your Workplace arrangement appropriate?
To ensure the safest possible work environment, we recommend that businesses take additional measures to promote hygiene and awareness. This should continue/be implemented even if it is not mandated or even when restrictions have eased.
This can include:
- Posters and/or physical signage regarding the 1.5 meter social distancing guidelines where possible;
- Have hand sanitiser at every entry and exit point;
- Ensure posters are visible regarding proper hand washing techniques and frequency;
- Where possible, adopt a cashless transaction process;
- Ensure work areas are disinfected daily; and
- Provide disinfecting tools and recommend that employees clean frequently touched surfaces several times a day (ie. Eftpos equipment, counter tops, door knobs, personal equipment).
How do you protect vulnerable workers?
Vulnerable workers within your organisation will likely suffer more serious complications as a result of being infected with Covid-19. This means that employers have an obligation take necessary risk assessment measures when associated these workers and to take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise those risks.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and Safe Work Australia has recommended that business conduct addition risk assessments for vulnerable workers, including seeking a medical opinion if it is needed. This will aid in determining the appropriate safety measures to be placed for these types of workers.
We note however that these control measures will need to be compliant with anti-discrimination laws in Australia. This requirement will be met so long as the laws are in compliance with other laws such as occupational health and safety.