PCBUs need to keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that they maintain a healthy and safe workplace.

covid-19.sa.gov.au is your one-stop-shop for all SA COVID-19 information and resources.

sa.gov.au is the central source of information for all South Australians and will keep you informed with local and reliable COVID-19 information.

SA Health is the first point of contact for specific hygiene and distancing control measures relating to COVID-19.

The Safe Work Australia website provides information on managing the risks from COVID-19 in the workplace on behalf of all Australian Work Health and Safety Regulators.

Employer responsibilities

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

Businesses must identify hazards at the workplace, and the associated risks, and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, or to minimise the risks if elimination is not reasonably practicable. PCBUs need to keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that any action taken is measured and appropriate. This includes closely monitoring the SA Health and the covid-19.sa.gov.au website.

Depending on the workplace, an appropriate range of actions may include:

  • closely monitoring official Government sources for current information and advice
  • reviewing and promoting your organisation’s policies and measures for infection control
  • ensuring workers are aware of the isolation/quarantine periods in accordance with advice from the Australian Government Department of Health (this includes information on when staff should not attend work)
  • providing clear advice to workers about actions they should take if they become unwell or think they may have the symptoms of coronavirus, in accordance with advice from SA Health
  • ensuring heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are well-maintained and operating properly
  • eliminating or minimising international work travel, in line with the travel advice on the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website
  • providing regular updates to workers about the situation and any changes to organisational policies or procedures
  • contingency planning to manage staff absences
  • providing workers with information and links to relevant services should they require support.

Before sending workers interstate or overseas on business, employers must first assess the health and safety risk to their worker/s. Employers should also be familiar with any responsibilities outlined in employment contracts or workplace agreements if their workers become ill. See the Fair Work Ombudsman website for details on industrial relations.

If a worker contracts COVID-19 at work or while undertaking work and requires hospitalisation, you must notify us as soon as you become aware of the situation.

First aid training requirements

No compliance action will be taken in relation to the first aid training requirements (regulation 42 of the model WHS Regulations) where first aid training is not available because of COVID-19.

Worker responsibilities

Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Workers should always practice good hygiene and other measures to protect against infections, including:

  • obeying all official SA Government and Federal Government health directives
  • washing their hands often, with soap and water, or carrying hand sanitiser and using it as needed
  • covering their mouth while coughing or sneezing
  • maintaining appropriate social distancing
  • wiping shared-use surfaces before and after touching
  • maintaining kitchen care practices by avoiding sharing crockery and cutlery and immediately wash after use
  • seeing a health care professional if they start to feel unwell.

If you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19 (see the SA Health website), or are a close contact of someone who has a health condition, you should seek advice from your medical practitioner and discuss work arrangements with your manager.

Workers should remain at home if unwell to prevent the spread of disease to others.

Wearing of masks at work

Your workplace has an obligation to keep you safe at work and to adhere to safety measures as per the directions issued by SAPOL through the Emergency Management Act. In some workplaces a Emergency Management Directive may make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

In most cases the wearing of a mask at work would be a strong recommendation from SA Health rather than a mandatory requirement. The wearing of masks are high on the list of preventative actions in reducing the risk of contracting COVID. Masks may be particularly important if you are working in a area that cannot maintain the social distancing requirements or are working with vulnerable people.

It is your employer's obligation to conduct a risk assessment, including a risk assessment in regard to COVID. If your employer asks you to wear a mask and you feel uncomfortable doing so, speak to your employer about your concerns. You can also request to see the risk assessment as to why they’re applying mandatory mask wearing. Also consider proposing an alternative option - for example, could you work in a separate location that allows for social distancing.

At the end of the day, workplaces are able to enforce reasonable conditions (temporarily) to manage the risk of COVID.

Exemptions

If you feel that you need an exemption from wearing a mask, consult your medical practitioner. Your medical practitioner should issue you with a document similar to a medical certificate which is your exemption.

However, we are unable to direct your employer to accept your exemption as this does not fall under SafeWork SA's jurisdiction. If your employer does not accept your exemption you should contact SAPOL on 131 444 or the Covid Hotline on 1800 253 787 for advice.

Regulator compliance

The statement of regulatory intent sets out the enforcement approach that all Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulators will take to ensure compliance with Australian WHS laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All WHS Regulators recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and will have significant impacts on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) e.g. employers, workers, officers and other persons with duties under WHS laws.

It is important for leaders (senior and frontline managers) to be visible and clearly communicating to the workforce that health, safety and wellbeing are key priorities at this time.

SA Health's transitioning back to work checklist will help business optimise health & wellbeing for their workers in the 'new normal'.

Tags: Coronavirus, corona virus, pandemic, COVID, Covid 19