Daniel Brimelow
Apr 30, 2020

Work Health and Safety Legislation and COVID-19

Work Health and Safety Legislation and COVID-19

With some restrictions being slowly lifted, it’s really is time to start thinking about what needs to be done when reopening your business.

The Australian Government has released a Statement of Regulatory intent pertaining to workplaces and their response to COVID-19. This applies to all Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulators in jurisdictions that have implemented the model WHS laws, as well as in Western Australia. The statement does not apply to the WHS Regulator in Victoria at this time.

In the end the statement covers what is required of workplaces during this pandemic period and whilst the public heath orders are in place. Even so not much has changed with regard to our overarching responsibilities being:

  1. Providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, and
  2. Providing adequate facilities for workers in carrying out their work.

In line with this the regulator has taken into account an employer’s ability to meet some of the duties imposed on them, regardless, all employers must prepare and take action to protect workers and others at their workplace from the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

As a minimum every workplace must:

  1. Have a plan in place to respond to the issues created by the pandemic
  2. Review exposure and infection control policies and procedures
  3. Actively promote social distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene and increase cleaning of common areas within the work environment
  4. Develop and implement safe systems of work, taking into account directions and advice provided by health authorities
  5. Keep monitoring the Covid-19 situation as it develops, by sourcing information from reputable sources such as government health sites and the like.

Workers must also play and active role to do whatever is “reasonably practicable” to protect their own and others safety at this time.  This includes that if they believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 and they have been at work, they must inform their workplace as soon as practicable.  Workers must also not present to work if they are unwell.

What controls should employers put in place to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19?

Social distancing rules are still in place.  For those businesses that are still able to or will soon be able to trade, you must implement appropriate controls to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

food safety and hygiene

There are 3 key things that must be considered:

  1. Maintain good hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace
  2. Implement physical distancing - keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart
  3. Use protective personal equipment (PPE) appropriately

There is no singular approach to applying these protocols and you will need to assess your workplace to ensure that you can effectively put controls in place to adhere to the national regulatory intent.

The following are some things that you need to have in place as an employer to help minimise the risk of infection.

Do what you can to ensure good hand hygiene by everyone at the workplace by:

  • Providing access to hand hygiene stations on entry and exit to the workplace
  • Putting up posters detailing good hand washing practices
  • Instructing customers to only touch what they intend to purchase
  • Providing access to facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper
  • Making sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order

Provide physical guidance for social distancing in the workplace by:

  • Placing markers on flooring to show were people can safely stand
  • Encourage customers to use contactless payment methods
  • Ensure work is structured so that workers can work 1.5 meters apart
  • Provide adequate PPE to workers such as gloves, masks and safety glasses and ensure they are trained in their safe use and maintenance
  • Structure break times to ensure that workers can use staff facilities without breaching social distancing rules
  • Limit access to the workplace by people that do not need to be there, including relative, children etc of your workers
  • Place limits on how many persons can be in your workplace at any one time using current social distancing rules of 1 person per 4 square meters

Keep the workplace clean by:

  • Developing a cleaning and sanitising schedule
  • Ensure frequently touched areas are cleaned regularly (several times a day) this includes, EFTPOS and sales equipment, elevator buttons, handrails, tables, counter tops, doorknobs, taps, fridge doors, staff rooms, toilets and sinks etc
  • When cleaning ensure that workers wear gloves
  • If an infected person has been in the workplace the entire workplace will need a deep clean of all areas where the person has been, a professional company should be sought to do this.

Helpful Links


COVID-19 Safety for Workers Checklist:

Working from Home:

Can any workers do their jobs from home?

  • Give those workers the option to do so.
  • Provide guidance to your workers on how
  • to set up a safe home office environment.
  • Require workers to complete a self‑assessment checklist to ensure they comply with good ergonomic practices
  • Appoint a contact person in your business that workers can talk to about any concerns.
  • Set up ways to communicate with workers online (e.g. through Skype or Zoom) and communicate with them daily.
  • Provide information to workers about the supports available to them, for example through an employee assistance program.
physical distancing food safety

Physical Distancing:

  • Have you put up posters around the workplace on keeping at least 1.5 metres distance between everyone at the workplace?
  • Are signs placed at the entrances to lifts and meeting rooms to ensure the maximum safe capacity is not exceeded?
  • Can workstations, desks and tables in offices and staff rooms be moved further apart to comply with social distancing?
  • Is it possible to bring in shift arrangements so less staff are in the workplace at once?
  • Are workers instructed to have meetings by phone or online instead of in person?
  • Have you touched base with suppliers to request contactless delivery?
  • Are there systems available from them to do e-invoicing?
  • Are there social distancing markers on the floor in areas where customers line up or where workers perform tasks?
  • Can a person be nominated on the work floor to be responsible for keeping everyone the required 1.5m distance apart?

Hand Washing and Hygiene:

  • Is there available hand sanitiser stations at entry and exit points and around the workplace?
  • Are bathrooms are well stocked with hand wash and paper towel?
  • Do you have up posters with instructions on how to hand wash/hand rub?
  • Are workers instructed in correct hygiene etiquettes such as sneezing, coughing and staying home if ill?
  • Are workers instructed to limit contact with others– no shaking hands or touching objects unless necessary?
  • Is signage put in place to encourage cashless and contactless transactions?
  • Is there access to closed bins?


  • Are all areas frequented by workers or others (e.g. visitors/customers etc) cleaned regularly with detergent and air-dry sanitiser?
  • Are workers trained in wearing gloves when cleaning?
  • Are frequently touched areas cleaned surfaces several times a day with detergent and air-dry sanitiser?
  • Are workers instructed to clean personal property that comes to work, such as, sunglasses, mobile phones and I-pads etc with alcohol wipes or similar.

Provide information:

  1. Put up signs about the symptoms of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  2. Direct workers to stay home if they are sick, and if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 ask them to call the National Coronavirus hotline (1800 020 080).
  3. Instruct workers to tell you if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 or have been tested for COVID-19.
  4. Remind staff of their leave entitlements if they are sick or required to self‑quarantine.
  5. Treat personal information about individual workers’ health carefully, in line with privacy laws.
  6. Encourage workers to download the Covidsafe Tracing App.
HACCP Food Safety Plan


About the author

Daniel Brimelow

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