How are you getting employees back into the workplace?

Safely getting employees back to the workplace

Safe Work Australia has put together a wealth of material to assist employers to meet the Work Health and Safety (WHS) concerns of employees.  There are very real WHS issues for employees where they have health issues, care for the elderly, look after children or have family members with compromised immune systems.

On a sector basis, Safe Work Australia has provided material for each sector – for example for hospitality, aged care, agriculture, building and construction.  These resources also then break down the materials under specific topics such as physical distancing, hygiene, employer WHS obligations and the like. They can be found by following the link here.

Employers will need to consider their approach in this ‘new normal’ by adopting a consultative approach with employees and aim to reach agreed outcomes where this is practicable.

Workplaces may not be strictly bound by social distancing requirements but to limit the anxiety of employees and to protect their health, efforts should be made to achieve this separation wherever possible.

Start planning now and commence the conversation with staff you have identified as needing to return to the workplace. Below we have summarised some of the recommendations from Safe Work Australia as a guide to what information is being provided.

How to work out physical distancing?

  • Physical distancing is likely to remain necessary for some time. This involves ensuring there is 4 square metres of space per person in the café, restaurant, foyer, etc., and physical distance of 1.5 metres from each person or small group in the area.
  • To achieve the 4 square metre ‘rule’ you would:
       calculate the area of the room (e.g. length of room in metres x width of room in metres = area of room in square metres), and
    –   divide the area of the room by 4.
  • For example, if you had a room that was 160 square metres in size, you should only allow up to 40 people in the room, to allow each person (or small group) to have 4 square metres of space.

Adjustments to the workplace will be required

Especially for businesses with face to face contact with the public e.g. cafes, restaurants, hotels, etc.

  • Physical distancing will mean adjustments to the workplace so that the 1.5 metre space is achieved by separating and eliminating tables, separating plant and equipment, etc.
  • Put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance, particularly where customers queue. If you are already doing this when operating, for example in a takeaway business, extend this into the remainder of the workplace.
  • Monitor the number of customers to meet the 4 square metre rule.
  • Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to themselves and customers of physical distancing requirements.
  • If a customer appears to have COVID-19 symptoms, then a Manager may need to be called to ask them to leave the premises.
  • Temperature checks could be implemented. Some simple screening questions could be asked, such as:
       Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms?
       Have any friends or family been ill with Covid-19?
       Have you travelled overseas or been in contact with anyone that has returned from overseas?
  • Maybe delay activities that bring employees into close contact until a later date (e.g. training of an apprentice)
  • Limit the risks as much as possible by assessing the WHS risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • To minimise the chance of spreading COVID-19, it is advisable to allocate a space for an employee which is their own area and place of work each day, rather than a shared space. This will help limit the employee’s exposure to another employee’s lack of attention to COVID-19 hygiene.
  • Where staff are moved around, there needs to be a process of cleaning of the relevant areas before the change is made.
  • Cleaning processes need to be clearly explained and understood by employees.
  • Personal hygiene needs to be enforced.
  • Appropriate signage and provided information on washing hands, using a tissue when sneezing, coughing into elbows, etc.
  • Signage can be downloaded from Safe Work Australia – click here.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Common PPE should be considered:
–   masks,
–   gloves,
   eye protection, and
   screens.

More Information?  

For access to ER Strategies’ COVID-19 toolkit, including updated information for employers directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19, free downloads and links to helpful government resources, please click here.  

ER Strategieswill continue to assist our clients to navigate these changes to their employment arrangements over the coming weeks and months. Clients of ER Strategies can contact the team during business hours on1300 55 66 37for assistance. Non-clients can call us, orcontact ushere, to discuss how we can best help your business as we move through these unprecedented times.  

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