The federal government is urging businesses to develop a plan for reopening and getting employees back in the workplace.
Early in May, the Australian federal government has announced a three-step plan, called the Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia, to help businesses safely bounce back from the epidemic and pave the way for economic recovery.
Each state is free to implement the plan according to their own timetable and based on local conditions; however, all the steps to be in force by mid-July.
Steps 1 and 2 of the plan encourage people to continue working from home if it suits them and their employer. Some companies across Australia are introducing more flexible working arrangements in order to keep their staff safe and prevent outbreaks from occurring onsite.
However, a return to workplace for most, if not all, employees is stipulated in step 3. If your business is planning to have your employees return to the workplace, then preparing a COVIDSafe plan is a must.
Preparing a COVID Safe Plan
Ensuring that you have a COVIDSafe Plan will give your employees the assurance they need that they will be returning to a safe and healthy workplace. It is important that businesses work with their employees in coming up with a COVIDSafe Plan. The plan must include:
- An assessment of the way each member of staff works in order to identify and understand the unique risks to which employees and the community might be exposed once business reopens
- Establishment of control measures to implement in order to address said risks and how and when these measures will be reviewed and adjusted (whether at regular intervals or after a trigger event)
- Identification of workers who are most at risk of infection due to the nature of their duties or belonging to a vulnerable worker category
- Adaptation and promotion of safe work practices such as social distancing, appropriate cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and excellent hygiene measures
- Application of the Hierarchy of Control Measures, where relevant, to actively prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace
- Preparation for the possibility of COVID-19 cases in the workplace and readiness to decisively, immediately, appropriately, and effectively respond, consistent with advice from health authorities
- Provision of hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Frequent cleaning and sanitising of common areas (conference rooms, kitchen/pantry areas), as well as public spaces (customer waiting rooms, elevators, entrances and exits)
Workplace Cleaning and Disinfecting
The implementation of appropriate cleaning and disinfecting protocols is of the utmost importance so that you, your employees, and the community will be protected from COVID-19 exposure. These protocols must include, but are not limited to the following:
- Daily cleaning of workplaces
- Cleaning in between shifts
- Cleaning in between uses (for shared equipment/facilities)
- Cleaning areas that get heavy foot traffic
Only after cleaning should surfaces and items be disinfected. This is because most sanitising or disinfecting chemicals will not work as intended if the surface or item is visibly soiled.
For workplaces or areas that have a high volume of people who are likely to touch surfaces, whether employees or customers, the frequency of cleaning and sanitation activities should be increased. There should also be a cleaning and disinfecting protocol in place in the event that there is a case or suspected case of COVID-19 infection at the workplace.
Safe Work Australia has released a guide for cleaning and disinfecting workplaces following a case or suspected case of COVID-19. Additionally, SWA provides useful checklists for maintaining good hygiene and cleaning in the workplace. You can download them here:
Safe Work Australia COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance
Safe Work Australia Cleaning Checklist
Safe Work Australia Health, Hygiene & Facilities Checklist
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