PCBUs need to keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that they maintain a healthy and safe workplace.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses that can range from the common cold to more severe diseases.
SA Health is the first point of contact for specific hygiene and distancing control measures relating to COVID-19.
The Safe Work Australia website provides information on managing the risks from COVID-19 in the workplace on behalf of all Australian Work Health and Safety Regulators.
Policy positions during COVID-19
Use of lifts
As we return to workplaces, SafeWork SA recognises the challenges businesses and workers have regarding the physical distancing guideline of 1.5m separation and the 4m² density rule whilst inside a lift.
Safe Work Australia’s COVID-19 information and guidance, which all State and Territory WHS Regulators, Unions and Industry Groups contribute towards developing, is updated to reflect these challenges.
Consequently, the 4m² density rule in lifts is removed from the Safe Work Australia physical distancing guidance material, however, you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people continue to practice physical distancing. It is still prudent to implement other controls, such as regular personal hygiene and hand washing, regular cleaning of high touch point areas and other controls to reduce or change the frequency of lift usage. That said, SafeWork SA recognises that physically distancing in lifts in not always practicable. Therefore, we will not be taking an active compliance approach to enforcing Work Health and Safety laws for 1.5m distancing or 4m² density rule within lifts unless excessive numbers of people are contained within them.
We consider it reasonable that people can travel in a lift to a workplace and be within 1.5m of each other; however, there should be sufficient room so as not to physically touch another person and for the ease of egress of persons at different floor levels. This will result in the lift maximum capacities not being used.
Workers and Health and Safety Representatives must be consulted in the development of protocols for using lifts and workers have the right to not travel in a lift if they feel unsafe to do so.
We ask that businesses and workers remain vigilant to the SA Health guidelines and, where practicable, remain at 1.5m physical distancing at all other times.
SafeWork SA is here to support businesses and workers to safely return to work, so if you have questions relating to lift use do not hesitate to call our Help Centre on 1300 365 255 or email us.
Statement of regulatory intent
The statement of regulatory intent sets out the enforcement approach that all Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulators will take to ensure compliance with Australian WHS laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All WHS Regulators recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and will have significant impacts on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) e.g. employers, workers, officers and other persons with duties under WHS laws.
First aid training requirements
SafeWork SA, along with all work health and safety (WHS) regulators, have agreed that no compliance action will be taken in relation to the first aid training requirements (regulation 42 of the model WHS Regulations) where first aid training is not available because of COVID-19.
Work health and safety responsibilities
Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
Businesses must identify hazards at the workplace, and the associated risks, and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, or to minimise the risks if elimination is not reasonably practicable. PCBUs need to keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that any action taken is measured and appropriate. This includes closely monitoring the Australian Government Department of Health, the Smartraveller website and any advice from state or federal government agencies.
Depending on the workplace, an appropriate range of actions may include:
- closely monitoring official Government sources for current information and advice
- reviewing and promoting your organisation’s policies and measures for infection control
- ensuring workers are aware of the isolation/quarantine periods in accordance with advice from the Australian Government Department of Health (this includes information on when staff should not attend work)
- providing clear advice to workers about actions they should take if they become unwell or think they may have the symptoms of coronavirus, in accordance with advice from the Australian Government Department of Health
- eliminating or minimising international work travel, in line with the travel advice on the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website
- providing regular updates to workers about the situation and any changes to organisational policies or procedures
- contingency planning to manage staff absences
- providing workers with information and links to relevant services should they require support.
Notification of COVID-19
Certain injuries and illnesses arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking are notifiable under work health and safety laws.
Unlike a work-related injury, proving that a disease like COVID-19 was contracted in the course of work is difficult, and may become harder as the virus becomes more wide-spread in the community.
You only need to notify us of a case of the COVID-19 virus if:
- it can be reliably attributed to a workplace exposure; and either
- the person is required to have treatment as an in-patient in hospital; or
Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Workers should always practice good hygiene and other measures to protect against infections, including:
- washing their hands often, with soap and water, or carrying hand sanitiser and using it as needed
- covering their mouth while coughing or sneezing
- seeing a health care professional if they start to feel unwell.
Mental health impacts
With many people experiencing anxiety and depression relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers with employee assistance programs should remind staff how to access them, including over the phone during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.
There are many resources online including:
- Beyond Blue guidance on maintaining mental health during the coronavirus outbreak and
- Australian Psychological Society's tips for coping with "coronavirus anxiety".
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