As an employer, you have legal duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 that apply to preventing exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace. You must so far as is reasonably practicable:
provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees
provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their jobs safely
provide employees with information about health and safety at the workplace, in appropriate languages
ensure that other people are not exposed to risks to their health or safety because of your work activities.
This guidance gives some general steps to identify and control the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as part of meeting your health and safety duties.
Specific WorkSafe industry guidance
Under pandemic orders from Victoria's Minister for Health there may also be specific actions you must take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Identifying COVID-19 risks
You must identify if there is a risk to your employees' health from exposure to COVID-19 at your workplace.
COVID-19 can spread through:
airborne aerosols generated by actions like coughing, sneezing, talking, shouting or singing – these can stay in the air for some time, especially in indoor spaces with poor ventilation
droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, shouts or sings – these can enter your eyes, nose or mouth when you are in close contact or land on surfaces
touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles) contaminated with droplets.
Ways to identify risks
Go to vic.gov.au to check the latest advice as things change.
Review your workplace and work practices to identify ways COVID-19 could spread. For example, when employees are in enclosed unventilated spaces, share equipment or contact high-touch surfaces.
Consider if work activities put other people such as clients or the public at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Consult with employees
Employers have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors and any health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consultation on identifying hazards or risks and decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19.
The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.
Controlling COVID-19 risks
Where a risk to health and safety is identified at your workplace, you must eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. If you cannot eliminate the risk, you must reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. The control measures used will depend on the risk, and whether the measure is available and suitable for your workplace.
Ensuring employees know what to do
Your duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable includes ensuring:
employees know what to do if they feel unwell or think they have been infected (see below)
unwell employees do not attend the workplace, including employees who are waiting on COVID-19 test results (other than those tests done as part of workplace surveillance testing) and those who are confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for are:
chills or sweats
shortness of breath
loss or change in sense of smell or taste.
Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If an employee develops any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, they should not go to work. Instead, they should:
get tested, and
if needed, seek medical advice from their doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398
Follow Victorian Government requirements about keeping records of people who attend the workplace.
Ensure employees keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres between themselves and others.
Follow Victorian Government density quotient rules.
Minimise face-to-face meetings.
Consider allowing flexible work arrangements, such as employees working from home or staggered start and finish times.
Maximise the amount of fresh air in indoor areas. Fresh air can come in through:
open windows, doors or air vents
air-conditioning, heating, or ventilation systems that are set to bring outside air in
Air purifiers can be used if ventilation cannot be improved by increasing the amount of fresh air indoor areas.
Increase regular cleaning practices.
Clean and disinfect high-touch and shared surfaces regularly, such as phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches and bench tops.
Follow Department of Health advice about cleaning and disinfecting.
Provide adequate facilities or products (such as hand sanitiser and soap) to allow employees to practise good hygiene.
Everyone in the workplace should practise good hygiene:
regularly clean hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or an alcohol-based hand rub
if hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water
wash hands with soap and water:
after visiting the toilet
after attending a public place
after coughing, sneezing or nose blowing
cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and dispose of used tissues immediately.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Provide appropriate PPE where required.
Provide information and training on why the PPE is required and how to use it safely.
Learn more about Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces
WorkSafe Advisory Service
WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.