COVID-19 :: Workplace Health & Safety

Last Updated: 18/9/2020

We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it have the potential to significantly impact your business, particularly where the health of your family and workers are concerned.  This page is dedicated to providing the latest information on your responsibilities for WH&S and access to useful tools.

Although we are endeavouring to ensure this is kept fully up-to-date, with the rapidly changing situation, we recommend that you always review the state information direct on the relevant state website prior to making business decisions.

National COVID-19 safe workplace principles

  1. All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to work health and safety (WHS) as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.
  3. To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must, in consultation with workers, and their representatives, assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.
  4. As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.
  5. Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.
  6. Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, and consistent with advice from health authorities.
  7. Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging that individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, to ensure business and worker confidence, a commitment to a consistent national approach is key. This includes a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by COVID-19.
  8. Safe Work Australia (SWA), through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Labour-Hire and WHS responsibilties

Employers or businesses, or anyone who falls under the definition of a ‘person conducting a business or  undertaking’ (a PCBU), has legal obligations under work health and safety laws.

A ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ is a broad term used throughout work health and safety legislation to describe all forms of modern working arrangements – including labour-hire.

The primary duty of care under the model WHS Act is owed by a PCBU to a ‘worker’, which includes a labour-hire worker. All labour-hire PCBUs and host PCBUs have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of labour-hire workers engaged by, or caused to be engaged by them, or whose activities are influenced or directed by the PCBU.

This means that an employer who uses workers engaged through a labour-hire business must treat those workers as if they were direct employees with regard to ensuring they provide a COVID-19 safe environment for those workers.

This also applies to all workers including those engaged via labour-hire.  They must follow the COVID-19 safe plans provided by the host PCBU.

Case studies, demonstrating how to manage COVID-19 in different workplaces, are available on the SafeWork website

What are the state and territory helplines an employer should contact if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19?

New South Wales – Healthdirect – 1800 022 222
Queensland – 13 Health – 13 43 25 84
Victoria – Coronavirus Hotline – 1800 675 398
South Australia – SA COVID-19 Information Line – 1800 253 787
Tasmania – Tasmanian Public Health Hotline – 1800 671 738
Western Australia – 13 26843 (13Covid)
Australian Capital Territory – Healthdirect – 1800 022 222
Northern Territory – Use the National Coronavirus Information Helpline – 1800 020 080

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fact Sheet & Workplace Guidelines

Coronavirus is expected to be in Australia for at least the next 10 months. It has been estimated that between 20-50% of the workforce will be affected at any given time, particularly heading into winter.

As per the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, all businesses have a duty of care to ensure as far as it reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers.  This is also a responsibility of each worker to ensure both their own and other workers health and safety at the workplace.

COVID-19: Victoria steps out of lockdown slowly

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Managing workers in Agriculture in NSW

The NSW Government has announced new measures to ensure horticultural businesses can continue to safely operate and to protect workers from COVID-19. One important step to protect you and your staff is to ensure you have a COVID-19 Safety Plan: agriculture (PDF, 190.32 KB) in place.

Download your COVID-19 Safety plan

Download, print and complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan: agriculture (PDF, 190.32 KB) for your business.

Register as a COVID Safe business 

Once you’ve completed and downloaded your COVID-19 Safety Plan, you can register your business as COVID Safe.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Managing workers in Agriculture in Qld

To ensure a seasonal workforce for Queensland’s harvest this year, the Queensland Government is putting measures in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 amongst employees, seasonal workers and the local community.

From 5 May 2020, businesses who employ seasonal workers must have a health management plan and be operating in accordance to this plan. This includes agribusinesses, commercial fisheries, and labour-hire firms.

Health management plans are also required for:

  • private or charter transportation providers who provide services to businesses who employ or house seasonal workers
  • accommodation facilities that house seasonal workers

A health management plan demonstrates compliance with COVID-19 Queensland Public Health Directions and outlines ways the business is minimising risks of COVID-19 transmission.

SafeWork Australia has released a series of resources to help you manage workers in your business to reduce the risk from COVID-19.

These resources include the following:

Using Transport like Minibuses or Coaches to transport workers?

COVID-19 Hygiene Awareness For Passenger Transport Drivers is available now.  This is a FREE course for drivers of personalised transport vehicles with information on suitable hygiene practices for the current COVID-19 Pandemic & beyond.

You can enrol HERE

Concerned about the safety & practices that your transport & delivery drivers are using?

COVID-19 Hygiene Awareness For Truck & Delivery Drivers.  This is a FREE course for Truck and Delivery Drivers with information on suitable hygiene practices for the current COVID-19 Pandemic & beyond.

You can enrol HERE