As an employer, you have obligations under the Workplace Health & Safety legislation to protect yourself and others.
In light of the recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, SafeWork NSW has provided the following advice to businesses:
- Review your infection control policies and procedures;
- Develop and implement safe systems of work that include directions and advice provided by our health authorities; and
- Monitor and read updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops from reliable sources.
The Australian Government’s Department of Health has released the below information sheet ‘Information for Employers’ which is a useful guide for employers. It can be summarised as follows:
- If any of your employees have returned from a country or region that is at high or moderate risk for COVID-19 (currently identified as Mainland China, Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea) or think they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they must self-isolate for 14 days. Employees who are in isolation should notify their employer and consider alternative arrangements, such as working from home – See NSW Health isolation guide: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-isolation-guidance_3.pdf
- Employers should provide their employees with relevant information and procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. You should consider forwarding an email to all employees and placing posters around your office regarding procedures to prevent the spread of the virus – See NSW Health posters: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-businesses.aspx
- Remind your employees that practicing good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against viruses, including washing hands frequently (before and after eating and after going to the toilet), to cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of used tissues hygienically, to use alcohol based hand sanitiser and if unwell, avoid contact with others.
Below are some measures you can implement in your office to reduce the risk of infection:
- Always ensure that hygiene and cleaning products are available in your office, such as alcohol based hand sanitiser, soap and disinfectant spray. If your workplace has a confirmed case of coronavirus, cleaning staff should wear gloves and a face mask.
- Consider teleconferences or videoconferences as an alternative to face-to-face meetings
- Avoid shaking hands with others
- Be aware of any employees with vulnerable health situations
- If your employees have ‘hot-desks’ or share office areas, wipe down the phone, computer and desk with alcoholic wipes
If you are a business owner and have any questions regarding your WHS obligations as an employer, please do not hesitate to contact us on (02) 9525 8688.