In brief - Employers should review their risk assessments, be aware of governments' latest health information and consult with their workers 

Social distancing at work and in the community has now become second nature to many. However, as time in isolation continues and with media reports of a "flattening of the curve", a number of people will be expecting a reduction in the risk control measures.

Safe Work Australia, Mining Safety and Worksafe Regulators around Australia are continuing to implore Persons Conducting Businesses or Undertakings (PCBUs), and workers, to continue to reassess and enforce the recommended risk controls to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections at the workplace and arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

Now is the time to review your risk assessment, consider the updated health information from both the Federal and State Health Departments, and consult with your workers.

Consultation with the workforce regarding the reasonably practicable controls, as recommended by the Government Health Departments, will drive acceptance of the control measures and deliver a safe and healthy workforce.

Key risk assessment considerations

Does the nature of the work affect the potential for a higher risk of infections?

If operating in construction and mining operations, the current controls should be refreshed and reissued to all personnel to ensure compliance with:

  • social distancing requirements

  • hand washing

  • personal protective equipment usage

  • cleaning and disinfecting arrangements

If your personnel have been working from home, consider updating:

  • isolation and communication arrangements

  • regular phone and video catch ups with staff

  • the home work space and ergonomics

  • flexible work and time arrangements for parenting and caring needs

If your personnel are interacting with students or in a care environment:

  • are the current controls effectively managing the risk?

  • have the risk assessment and controls been refreshed?

  • has the change management safety system been implemented to effectively address operational changes in the work environment?

Work health and safety laws in Australia have not been varied or amended to soften the legislative burden of ensuring the health and safety of workers and others who may be affected by your business or undertaking.

With no changes to this onerous requirement in these pandemic times, a continuing review of your risk assessment and reasonably practicable controls are recommended to stay ahead of the curve.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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