August 30th, 2021

COVID – How to manage WHS Responsibilities

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.

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 the appropriate Health Department
  • 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.

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

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 State / Territory 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.