From the outset of the pandemic, the business committed to minimising the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep its employees safe and well at work. In addition to following the relevant government guidelines, the business initially took additional steps to reduce risks to employees, which included:
Overtime as the health advice from Government was provided, this included the requirement for employees to be masked and to be vaccinated. Whilst Government advice or mandates required businesses to follow certain overarching requirements, it was businesses that were required to not just implement these requirements, but also always ensure that they were meeting their obligation to provide a safe working environment.
They incorporated into their existing health and safety management and operational systems their COVID-19 planning. This included revised procedures, education, written COVID response plans and an online incident register. The site had a manager charged with the responsibility for health and safety including the updated Covid requirements with oversight from senior management who were off site. Protocols were established for ensuring employees and contractors are protected as far as is reasonably practicable and these protocols and systems were regularly audited.
The benefit of having some production processes that were automated, meant that they could be operated with minimal physical interaction of personnel. This meant that the business only required a minimum number of essential personnel to be on site and only these individuals were allowed on site.
All non-essential services on site are closed and non-essential capital projects stopped
In addition to educating employees on their obligations to comply with their policies, the business also changed certain practices:
The business provided face masks and medical gloves to employees who wished to use them. Employees were trained and/or provided advice as to the appropriate use of face masks and medical gloves. When Government health directives required people to wear masks in the workplace, this was then mandated in the workplace.
Health checks on site access via the completion of a questionnaire was required to ensure that those entering site were not a risk. Anyone who did not meet the criteria was not allowed to enter the site. All employees were aware that they were not allowed to enter the site if they had symptoms or were unwell. There were regular communications to all workers reminding them to not come to work if ill and to report any illness developed on site. Employees were also informed about the government guidelines and as to what symptoms were identifiable as risks of having Covid 19 and that they should be getting tested. Most importantly, all employees knew that they had to contact their manager if ill and that if they were on site and developed or exhibited symptoms, they would have to leave the site.
In circumstances where an employee contracted Covid 19, the business had a clear process which had to be followed. Managers were to confirm each circumstance with HR prior to implementing them to ensure consistency in approach.
They needed to identify if the person had been on site in the 48 hours prior to developing symptoms. Senior managers had to be informed about the issue along with the site health and safety managers.
Where the person had been on site, the area the person had attended had to be locked down by restricting access and egress to limit the spread of the virus. Prearranged specialist contractors were used to clean the areas. Cleaners had to provide written confirmation that a clean had been completed for infectious material control.
Close contacts on site had to be identified, including considering tradespeople, cleaners, contractors, and others, that may have come into contact with the individual. Any Close contacts had to self-isolate for 14 days. The requirement was later reduced as the government requirements changed. All close contacts were provided information about the government isolation requirements, and they were expected to comply with them.
Accurate communication was provided to the work area and others on site about the incident. This transparency was necessary to ensure trust. People were concerned for their Health and Safety and effective communication alleviated their concern in these circumstances.
Where an employee advised or exhibited that he or she was experiencing cold/flu-like symptoms or has tested positive for covid, the manager had to consider the appropriate options available dependant on whether the employee was able to work from home or not. The employee is:
As state pandemic orders were changed , diminished or removed, the business made appropriate assessments of their work practices and similarly eased the various requirements.
The business still maintains the requirements for a social distancing and pandemic style hygiene. If there is a reintroduction of state health orders, or site-based issues, it is now able to activate any measures at short notice. The measure and processes it implemented, were conducted in a manner that had successfully limited Covid 19 in the workplace. The business found itself in the position throughout this time, to be able to operate effectively.
This case study was produced with the support of the Commonwealth Government, represented by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
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