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:

  • All non-essential contractors have been barred from entering site.
  • A small core group of contractors had been selected that underwent screening tests. These were allowed to enter site if they were passed the test.
  • Increased cleaning and hygiene
  • Enforced strict social distancing practices
  • Reminders to personnel to practice good hygiene practices

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.

Protection of their workers

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: 

  • Employees instructed to travel to and from the sites alone. Car-pooling was banned.
  • Access to operational control rooms were limited
  • Operational control rooms had  required separation between workstations
  • All employees that can work from home had to do so
  • Staggered working hours were introduced for day personnel at the worksite
  • Staggered lunch and 'smoko'  breaks
  • Changed the method of shift hand-over to be more contactless and shorter
  • Group face to face meetings were banned
  • Lunchrooms were provided to ensure that groups were segregated and thereby limiting the number of people using the facility at the same time.
  • Staggered use of lunch facilities occurred with the facility being cleaned between each shift
  • Strict physical separation protocols;
  • Non-essential services on sites were closed including the canteen and any recreational rooms
  • Payslips were posted or emailed.
  • Swipe access record to certain areas to provide for contact tracing if required

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.

Process for dealing with a  suspected  COVID-19 case

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:

  • directed to leave the site immediately or not attend for work. The Manager was responsible to ensure that the employee could get home safely in circumstances, where the direction to leave the site was made.
  • required to follow the relevant government guidelines and seek immediate medical attention. Whilst waiting for the test results or if tested positive, the employee, if well, could work from home and receive their usual pay. If the employee was not well enough to work, then a claim for personal leave would be approved. If an employee had insufficient personal leave, they would be able to access unpaid personal leave, annual leave, advanced annual leave (where permitted) or long service leave. If an employee has exhausted all leave entitlements, then a decision was made on a case-by-case basis on whether special paid leave was offered.
  • Directed not to return to work until they are no longer a risk and they needed this to be verified. Verification was by either a medical certificate or appropriate

 The Easing and Removal of Pandemic Orders

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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