Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) Victorian employers must take every reasonable step to protect workers from risks to both their physical and mental health, including those risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).This includes ensuring workplaces have appropriate systems and processes in place for the safety of workers and others. Social distancing, access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene products such as hand sanitiser, and avoiding sharing work tools and equipment, are all measures which should be addressed.
Identifying risks on construction sites
It is important that people be aware of the activities on worksites which pose a risk of exposure. Workers may be exposed to COVID-19 in any of the following scenarios:
- travelling in personnel hoists and lifts
- work that requires employees to be in close contact with others
- using shared tools or equipment
- sharing facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens and communal break areas
Controlling the risk of exposure
Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees.
Some steps that employers can take to ensure that workplace remain safe include:
- implementing screening process
- record the schedule and work locations of workers
- implement physical distancing of at least 1.5m wherever possible
- advise employees to follow good hygiene practices
- avoid shared use of tools, plant and equipment
- encourage correct use of personal protective equipment, and
- clean in accordance with the DHHS information on cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmission – tips for non-healthcare settings.
WorkSafe has developed a simplified checklist for the construction industry which should be used with the ‘Managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure: Construction industry’ guidance. Action and tick each checkbox when completed.
Face coverings in workplaces
Directions from the Chief Health Officer about face coverings are in place across Victoria. Everyone in Victoria over 12 years old needs to wear a face covering outside of their home, unless they have a lawful reason not to. For more information see the guidance Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Face coverings in workplaces.
Employer OHS obligations
WorkSafe is reminding the construction industry that there is no change to employer obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of coronavirus (COVID- 19) restrictions.
Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work, however having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with Chief Health Office (CHO) directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.
You must follow any health directions that apply to how your business, as well as ensuring that you meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. This includes consulting with employees and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.
Preparing a COVIDSafe Plan
Where restrictions apply and depending on your location your workplace may be required to have a COVIDSafe Plan. A COVIDSafe Plan helps businesses meet their requirements under the directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO).
A High Risk COVIDSafe Plan must be established when worksites are operating under Stage 4 restrictions. To ensure you stay up to date with any changes to restrictions in your industry visit Business Victoria: Creating a COVIDSafe Workplace.
Notifiable incidents and COVID-19
From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the OHS Act specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace.
Timely sharing of information about potential workplace transmission of infectious disease is critical for effective management of any risks to health and safety. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving COVID-19.
Need to know more?
Find the latest information about COVID-19 and preventing exposure in the workplace at the WorkSafe Victoria website or contact WorkSafe Advisory 1800 136 089.
Find up to date industry requirements at https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19 and https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/managing-risk-covid-19-exposure-construction-industry.