3. Health and Safety Measures
Requirements mandated by law or any official guidance.
- Physical distancing measures are still in place across Australia. Currently, this means keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people and 4 square metres per person.
- The Australian Government has introduced the COVIDSafe app, an entirely voluntary contact tracing tool to assist health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Measures typically implemented by employers and the associated legal risks, limitations, obligations and issues to consider.
- The model Work Health and Safety Laws (see attached Guide) require employers to take care of the health, safety and welfare of their workers and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (including clients, customers and visitors) at the workplace.
- Measures typically implemented by employers to comply with their work health and safety obligations include:
- implementing working from home arrangements;
- discouraging workers from unnecessary usage of public transport;
- requiring workers and other people to practice physical distancing;
- requiring workers and other people to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well stocked hygiene facilities);
- requiring workers to stay home when sick;
- requiring others to stay away from the workplace, unless essential, e.g., such as family, friends and visitors;
- cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly;
- restructuring the layout of the workplace to allow for physical distancing;
- limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time;
- providing adequate facilities in the workplace to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 (e.g. washroom facilities including adequate supply of soap, water and paper towel, and hand sanitiser where it is not possible for workers to wash their hands);
- providing any necessary information or training to protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19; and
- consultation with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, which involves taking the views of the workers into account and advising workers of the outcome of consultation.
- Both pre-made and customisable materials, including posters, stickers, and decals containing checklists, infographics, fact sheets for industry and posters on handwashing, hygiene and physical distancing, have been made available by the Australian Government for use by cafes, restaurants, stores and retailers, residential buildings and sports and entertainment venues to download and display in their workplaces. Resources can be found at COVIDSafe resources and Safe Work Australia.
- One factor where the employer is at risk from so many of the workforce working from home is that under the uniform Health and Safety legislation in place in a majority of Australian jurisdictions, the home is a workplace and the employer thus has duties towards the employee in relation to safety in that workplace. This includes everything from electrical safety, tripping hazards and ergonomic issues to safety of the person such as increased risk of domestic violence. This will be an increasing issue if home working continues to be widespread.
- Safe Work Australia has provided Guidance for employers on how to clean their workplace to keep it safe and limit the spread of COVID-19 .