News & Insights

Critical steps for keeping your business workplace COVID safe

Published 29 July 2021

Workplace safety challenges continue to change as COVID-19 infection clusters erupt, while businesses attempt to return to operations in various parts of Australia. Many businesses will be juggling multiple business premises and staff working environments including working remotely (or working from home), working in a mobile capacity as well as in business premises.

For organisations managing the risks of people in business workplace premises, be that employees, contractors or the public, this checklist provides guidance to help ensure safety first and foremost during this COVID health crisis.

Key areas of focus for business risk management

While every business has different questions and needs, according to Gallagher Head of Workplace Risk Vivienne Toll, a systematic, documented risk management approach is key to ensuring workplace safety.

  1. exclude potentially infected people
  2. keep visitor records
  3. facilitate physical distancing
  4. maintain protective hygiene
  5. meet your duty of care obligations

Government guidelines for COVID Safe businesses reflect these core areas and encourage all organisations to have a documented COVID Safety Plan. The New South Wales Government has created a useful downloadable template which provides a basis for planning.  
 


1. Excluding potentially infected people

  • Bar entry to staff, visitors and customers who appear unwell or who are displaying related symptoms.
  • Remind employees of their leave entitlements if required to self-isolate.
  • Provide clear instructions and training to employees in regard to safety protocols: distancing, protective hygiene, wearing face masks and getting tested.
  • Post clearly displayed conditions of entry to premises for any visitors, including the need to record their attendance.

 

2. Keep records for infection tracking

  • Use your state’s QR code and/or a written register to keep a record of the names and contact details of everyone (including staff, contractors and couriers) attending the premises for at least 28 days. Use only for tracing COVID-19 infections and treat as confidential personal information.
  • Try to limit entry only to those people who have provided their tracking information. Make your employees aware of the COVIDSafe app and the role it plays in contact tracing for infection containment.
  • Cooperate with health authorities if you are contacted in relation to COVID-19 exposure at your workplace and be aware of your notification obligations if you become aware of a case of infection.

 

3. Logistically enable physical distancing

  • Put plans and systems in place to monitor and control the numbers of workers and customers on the premises at one time. Assign people to specific work stations and remind them of the need to maintain social distancing at all times.

  • Use flexible working arrangements where possible, such as working from home and attending the premises in staggered shifts to reduce peak periods.

  • Consider installing Perspex barriers or other physical controls to protect people at high risk interaction points and service counters.

  • Use phone or video technology for meetings.

  • Request contactless deliveries and payment options where practical.

  • Require and facilitate with supplies and scheduled cleaning and sanitising of contact surfaces on your premises.

  • Set air-conditioning to external airflow rather than recirculation.

  • Have strategies in place to manage gatherings that may occur immediately outside the premises, such as entryways and lifts.

 

4. Enabling workplace hygiene  

  • Provide masks and hand sanitiser at multiple locations throughout the workplace.
  • Supply detergent/disinfectant surface wipes to clean workstations and equipment such as monitor, phone, keyboard and mouse. This should be done daily.
  • Ensure bathrooms are well stocked with hand soap and paper towels, and disable blow dryers. Treat discarded paper towels as biohazards.
  • Frequently used and common contact areas should be cleaned daily with detergent or disinfectant. Cleaners should wear personal protection: masks and gloves.
     

5. Be aware of your duty of care obligations to provide a safe and heathy work environment

  • Under state health and safety legislation employers must address health risks identified at a workplace by either eliminating or minimising them as far as practicable. This includes threats to mental health such as work-related stress.

  • Businesses must allow employees to work from home if they are reasonably able to do so. Failure to comply with this governmental requirement could result in substantial fines for the employers concerned.

  • Document protocols for COVID-19 risks, including the logistical measures you have taken, the communications to your staff and your response plan to incidences of infection.

  • For workers’ compensation claims for infection with COVID-19 at work, some industry sectors are considered to be high risk for transmission. These include service providers such as transport, entertainment, hospitality, education, retail, healthcare and community services such as police, fire brigades, courts and prisons.


How can we help?

Our flexible, adaptive approach to understanding your organisation’s workplace risk management needs and statutory compliance means that we work with your circumstances and help you make necessary adjustments to stay abreast with requirements and health and safety standards.

 

Further reading

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic resource centre

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Fair Work Protecting employees and customers

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icare coronavirus information for employers

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Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective.
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