Workplace health and safety advice for Coronavirus.

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WHS and Coronavirus


Workplace Health & Safety Queensland has established a dedicated COVID-19 Work Health and Safety Hotline on 1300 005 018. This is for advice to businesses on their duties during the pandemic, as well as practical tips on managing a clean and hygienic workplace. There is also information for employers at worksafe.qld.gov.au/coronavirus

Workplace Health & Safety information specific to Queensland's agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries is available here.  

Timber Queensland encourages our members to review the links provided below to ensure you are familiar with how to prevent the spread of infection in the workplace and understand self-quarantine periods, workplace entitlements and obligations.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alerts

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Australian Workplace Laws

Coronanvirus (COVID-19) and Workplace Health and Safety

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Social Distancing in the Workplace

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Environmental Cleaning

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Worker Hygiene

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Obligations re Staff Working from Home

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Travelling in Work Vehicles

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and WorkCover

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Mental Health

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Managing Construction Sites

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and WH&S Regulatory Enforcement

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Recommended Practices for Forest Industry Operations


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alerts

The Queensland Health website is an excellent information souce for updated case numbers and health related facts: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Australian Workplace Laws

The Fair Work Australia website provides details on workplace entitlements and obligations if you and/or your business is affected by the outbreak of Coronavirus.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) workplace health and safety

The World Health Organisation have issued a useful factsheet on getting your workplace ready for COVID 19.

The Workplace Health & Safety Queensland website also provides information and links related to self-quarantine, preventing the spread of infection at work and personal protective equipment preparing your workplace to reduce the spread of infection. 

Safe Work Australia have developed a series of fact sheets with practical advice for minimising the risk from COVID-19 and managing WH&S in the workplace for each industry:

Members can also access Safe Work Australia's COVID-19 full business resource kit here. It includes useful infographics, check lists, signage and posters for use in the workplace. 

The Department of Health have also collated campaign resources (including posters, fact sheets etc.) to assist employers with communicating about COVID-19 WH&S health directives to employees. This can be accessed here


 
The forest and timber industry is considered an essential industry and as accordingly it is essential your workers are observing social distancing and good hygiene practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We recommend you nominate responsible persons to make sure your workers are following the rules for physical distancing.
 

Ensure all required WHS controls are being adhered to, including the use of PPE, and if anyone is sick, send them home. If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication), you need to manage those risks too.

Social distancing measures at work include:

  • split workers’ shifts, limit worker numbers, reduce the number of tasks to be completed each day, postpone non-essential work
  • use methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate.
  • stop shaking hands to greet others
  • keep 1.5 metres away from others as much as possible - review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers where practical and safe to do so
  • avoid gatherings and meetings that aren’t essential, for essential gatherings, conduct in spaces that enable workers to keep the required physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, ideally outdoor spaces
  • Use customer control methods to meet social distancing requirements; for example, use signs to control entry into the factory floor, and ensure visitors or suppliers who need to attend your workplace are informed of what's expected of them
  • promote good hand, sneeze and cough hygiene
  • provide alcohol based hand rub for all staff and workers
  • reducing the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time (e.g by staggering meal breaks and start times), eat lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room
  • limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • spread out furniture in common areas.
  • regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch
  • avoid non-essential travel 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Environmental Cleaning 

  • The length of time COVID-19 survives on objects and surfaces varies.  Environmental cleaning is one way to remove COVID-19 particles.
  • Usual cleaning schedules will need to be increased. Frequently touched surfaces, including handrails and doors as well as amenities including kitchens, lunch rooms, common areas, change rooms, toilets, showers, drink fountains and vending machines should be regularly wiped and cleaned using detergent or disinfectant solutions.
  • Also consider reducing the number of touch points for workers. For example, leaving access doors open, where appropriate.
  • Workers should be provided with cleaning agents and trained to clean down plant or equipment (e.g. farm machinery or tools) immediately after use. Workers should each be provided with their own equipment if possible.
  • To minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 the person cleaning should wear gloves and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves. Gloves and alcohol-based hand sanitiser should be made available throughout the workplace.
  • See the Federal Government Department of Health information sheet on Environmental cleaning and disinfection-principles for COVID-19 for further information.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and worker hygiene

Workers should be required to practice good hygiene including:

  • covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue
  • disposing of tissues properly
  • washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • washing body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day
  • staying more than 1.5 metres away from others, and
  • reporting and staying home if experiencing any symptoms.

In addition, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, workers should also:

  • avoid touching their face
  • avoid handshakes or any other close physical contact
  • refrain from spitting at all times,
  • put cigarette butts in the bin.

Washroom facilities should have adequate supplies for good hygiene, such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper. Washroom facilities must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and staff working from home

There are a number of issues to consider and address when your office-based staff work from home. An agreement needs to be made that addresses:

  • what hours / days of the week the work will be performed at home
  • what equipment is required to perform the work safely and productively
  • communication methods
  • work performance and expectations.

Employers obligations

  • An employer has the primary duty of care and must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of their workers whilst working at home
  • Have your staff assess their home-based work area using this checklist to formalise the agreement

Workers obligations

A worker has an obligation to take care of their own health and safety and follow health and safety policies, procedures and instructions put in place by their employer. This may include:

  • following procedures about how the work is performed
  • following instruction on how to use the equipment provided by the workplace
  • maintaining a safe work environment (for example moving furniture to allow adequate workspace and providing adequate lighting, repairing broken steps)
  • keeping their equipment safe, well maintained and in good order
  • looking after their own in-home safety (for example maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms)
  • reporting changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home.

Coronavirus and travelling in work vehicles

There is not a limit on the number of passengers that can travel in a commercial passenger vehicle (eg taxis).  See Safe Work Australia's fact sheet on minising the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for passenger transport.

When travelling in work vehicles consideration should be given to limit the number of passengers relative to the vehicle size to maintain social distancing.  

Drivers should set the air-conditioning to external airflow instead of recirculation and make hand sanitiser available for passengers where possible.

Two people who are not from the same household can travel together in a vehicle for work purposes. This includes a ute with only one row of seats. Your business should consider the following for vehicle travel:

  • Where possible all workers should take separate vehicles.
  • When travelling with another person, where possible have the passenger sit in the back row of seats furthest away from the driver.
  • If more than two people are required to travel together, additional vehicles should be used, so that no more than 2 people are travelling together.

Make sure the vehicle is regularly cleaned, and that shared surfaces like door handles are cleaned regularly throughout the day.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and WorkCover

Queensland WorkCover has published frequently asked questions and answers for:

Worker FAQ's

Employers FAQ's


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Mental Health

These tips from Beyond Blue can help support you and your staff's mental health during periods of self-isolation, quarantine or working from home:

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
  • Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods.
  • Try to maintain physical activity.
  • Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits.
  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Managing Construction Sites

health directive issued on 2 April by the Queensland Government confirms that the 2-person rule (ie a person who is an owner, resident, tenant, occupier, temporary occupier or person in control of a residence may allow up to two visitors who are not ordinarily members of the person’s household) doesn’t apply to builders and tradies working in the home or private premises.

HIA and Queensland Master Builders are very keen to demonstrate to the Queensland Government just how compliant the industry can be and how serious we are about staying open for business and keeping their workers employed.

Queensland Master Builders have produced a number of signs, forms and checklists to assist their members meet appropriate social distancing and hygiene rules.

HIA has also developed a set of industry guidelines to help their members manage their residential building work sites and the risks from COVID-19 to assist.  There are guidelines for new homes and renovations and additions.

The Queensland Government have published a building and construction industry Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet covering issues sharing as sharing work vehicles, trades who need to be closer than 1.5m to complete a job and if toolbox talks should continue.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and WH&S Regulatory Enforcement

Australia’s work safety authorities have issued a statement setting out the enforcement approach that the regulators will take to ensure compliance with Australian laws during the pandemic. The regulators recognise that the pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and will have significant impacts on a PCBU and employers, workers, officers and others with duties under WHS laws.

WH&S regulators at this time will:

  • Take a supportive and educative approach to compliance provided duty holders have made genuine attempts to comply with requirements and where compliance is affected due to factors outside their direct control.
  • Take into account an employer’s ability to meet its WHS duties given the constraints associated with the pandemic. 
  • Continue to respond to matters involving serious incidents or fatalities - however investigative methods may vary.
  • Continue core administrative functions.
  • Enforcement tools will still be used where there are serious WH&S breaches.

Enforcible WHS responsibilities during this time are listed below for:


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and recommended practices for forest industry operations

The Tasmanian Forestry Industry has created this document outlining best practice safety, hygiene and mental health practices to assist forestry businesses to operate safely throughout COVID-19. Specific recommended practices are outlined for forestry, harvesting, log haulage and processing.