Managing COVID-19 risks: Early childhood education and care services industry

A checklist to help employers in the early childhood education and care services industry prevent or control exposure to COVID-19.


Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations
  • be subject to COVID-19 vaccination requirements

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan. COVIDSafe plans should be reviewed and updated regularly.

COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Pandemic Orders issued by the Victorian Minister for Health.

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian Pandemic Orders does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any Pandemic Orders that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

Checklist information

Employers should use this checklist with WorkSafe's Exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces safety alert. Employers should also read relevant information and updates from the Department of Health (DH), Business Victoria, Department of Education and Training (DET) and other appropriate government departments and industry bodies.

Strategies to reduce the risk of transmission

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services should consider a variety of controls to support physical distancing and good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the practical limitations of their environment. The following actions are to be considered, adapted and implemented as necessary according to the education setting and the individual needs of employees, children and the wider community.

Employer checklist

Check off each action point in the following checklist. If you are unable to check off a point you should develop and implement measures to address the issue.

Risk information and monitoring

  • Employer is up to date with restrictions that apply to the provision of early childhood education and care.
  • Employer is up to date with COVID-19 risk information and monitoring updates from DH, Business Victoria and the website.
  • COVIDSafe Plan has been developed and regularly monitored and updated as necessary.
  • Vulnerable employees have been identified and the risks specific to those employees assessed. Vulnerable employees include those who are most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example, people aged 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions or those with compromised immune systems.

Physical distancing

Maintaining a physical distance of 1.5m in an ECEC setting will not always be practical. In a childhood learning environment, physical distancing is most important between adults.

Where multiple employees are in a room, employees should maintain a distance of 1.5m from each other as much as practical. Workstations should be spaced out as much as possible, and the number of staff in offices limited.

Maintaining at least 1.5m distance between employees and other visitors to the premises is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.

Where a work premises has a publicly accessible space, employers must display a sign at each public entry to each space that includes a statement specifying the maximum number of members of the public that may be present in the space at a single time. That maximum is the number permitted by the density quotient, rounded down to the nearest whole number.

In consultation with employees and independent contractors, employers should develop a plan to ensure physical distancing is maintained. This could include, where reasonably practical, staggering start times and breaks for staff members.

  • Physical distancing maintained.

Screening for COVID-19

A screening process to minimise the potential introduction of COVID-19 to the early childhood environment.

  • Employers have ensured that persons entering the workplace are not subject to any Pandemic Order requirements (such as isolation or quarantine).
  • Employers have instructed those who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to follow Department of Health (DH) procedures.

COVID-19 educational materials are displayed. Educational materials can be downloaded from the website and printed.

Arrival and departure

Procedures to minimise close proximity between adults, particularly during drop-off and pick-up.

  • Congregation of adults is discouraged at arrival and departure.
  • Surface markings are provided outside to provide physical distancing guides at arrival and departure.
  • Shared sign-in equipment is cleaned regularly and between users where possible.
  • All changes to procedures are communicated to parents, carers and employees.

Other actions for reducing the risk of transmission

Temperature screening (optional)

Where temperature screening is undertaken:

  • Checking of children is completed in line with temperature screening guidelines.
  • Employees, including agency employees, are trained in arrival, drop-off and temperature screening procedures.
  • Where specific types of face masks are required, employers must supply face masks to employees.
  • Good hand hygiene is maintained throughout screening procedure and gloves are worn by employees when taking temperatures.
  • Temperature devices are cleaned and stored appropriately.
  • Process is in place if a high temperature is recorded.

Note: High temperature indication should be used in conjunction with screening questions.

  • Where necessary, individual risk assessments for employees and children at special risk are conducted. Where vulnerable employees and children 'clinically vulnerable' to COVID-19 are identified, take account of medical advice.
  • High-risk activities such as parent information sessions, interviews and tours are adapted, modified or deferred if required under COVIDSafe settings. Consider virtual alternatives.

Record keeping and contact tracing

Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may be required to keep records of attendance to assist with contact tracing.

  • Process is in place to record the details of every person who attends the workplace for more than 15 minutes.

Face masks in workplaces

Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.

  • Employees carry face masks at all times at work and wear them when required.

Note: It is recommended that staff wear a face mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

  • A fitted face mask that is 3 layers and covers the nose and mouth will be carried and worn when required.
    • A face mask with 3 layers is recommended by the Victorian Minister for Health, as it provides the best protection. A face mask is always recommended, however a fitted snood or fitted gaiter is allowed. Fitted means the snood or gaiter can extend in a fitted form to snugly fit over and cover your nose and mouth. Loose-fitting face coverings such as bandanas or scarves, or face shields worn without a face mask, are not acceptable.
  • Single use face masks should not be worn for longer than 4 hours without changing.
  • Where specific types of face masks are required, employees are supplied with face masks by the employer and are trained in their use.

COVID-19 vaccinations in workplaces

COVID-19 vaccination is one control measure that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces. This should be part of a suite of controls used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.


Controls for employees and children to maintain good hygiene practices.

  • Sufficient hand washing facilities are available, such as wash basin, clean running water, soap, paper towels.
  • Liquid soap and running water or hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol are available at the entrances of the facility and throughout.
  • All employees, children and visitors to early childhood services undertake regular hand hygiene, particularly:
    • on arrival at the service
    • before and after eating
    • after blowing their nose
    • after coughing, sneezing or using the toilet
  • Hygiene information is displayed in prominent locations in the workplace, such as kitchens, offices, toilets, foyers, lifts and site entrances.
  • Children bring their own water bottle for use and refilling at the service. People should not drink directly from drinking fountains.
  • Process is in place to ensure the highest hygiene practices amongst food handlers, in line with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidance Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.
  • No sharing of food.
  • Tissues are readily accessible, with bins provided in each room and in outdoor areas for easy disposal.
  • Use of mobile phones by employees is discouraged, if possible. Employees should be reminded to clean their phones regularly.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Cleaning needs to be conducted in accordance with the DH information on cleaning and disinfection for workplaces.

Establish systems to clean touched surfaces, toys and shared equipment. Services should maintain full adherence to NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines.

  • Processes in place to comply with NHMRC guidance Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.

In addition:

  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least twice daily – for example, play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks.
  • Wash and launder play items and toys including washable plush toys, as appropriate, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.
  • Hand hygiene before and after use of shared equipment is recommended – for example, before a new activity.

Note: Disinfecting and cleaning of toys and equipment is not required after every use.

Further information about cleaning and disinfecting

Considerations for teaching and learning environments

Procedures to minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19 on-site. Maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5m may not be practical in all situations in early childhood services. Physical distancing is most important between adults.

  • The use of agency and labour hire staff is minimised during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A process is in place to ensure the same staff members are working together across the same shift, so far as reasonably practical.
  • Where multiple employees are in a room, they are reminded to maintain physical distancing from each other as much as practical or are encouraged to wear masks where this is not possible.
  • Opening of windows is encouraged during the day to promote air flow.
  • Consideration is given to the set-up of the room, the placement of activities and limiting the number of whole-group activities.
  • Mixing between different age or room groups is reduced where possible.
    • Small group play, staggered mealtimes and indoor/outdoor play are considered.
  • Outdoor activities encouraged where possible.
  • Sharing of toys that have been placed in mouths should be monitored and avoided.
  • Consider minimising the furniture and equipment in use at the workplace to assist with cleaning and disinfecting requirements.

Considerations for offices and staff facilities

Establish systems in line with DH physical distancing recommendations.

  • Physical distancing of at least 1.5m between adults is implemented wherever possible.
  • Face masks must be carried by employees at all times when at work and worn when required.
  • Each work task is considered to decide whether there is a safer way to do the work with more distance between employees.
  • Workstations are spaced out as much as possible and the number of employees in offices is limited. Where possible, employees should use separate offices.
  • Employees are reminded to maintain physical distancing from each other as much as possible in the reception, staff room and offices.

Psychological health

Employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health.

  • Working environment is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health, so far as reasonably practicable.

The WorkWell Toolkit is an online hub which links small to medium-size businesses with relevant research, tools and information to support them in building a mentally healthy workplace. Further information about the WorkWell Toolkit is available on the WorkWell website.

Providing routine care and first aid

  • Standard precautions are followed when coming into contact with someone for the purpose of providing routine care, assistance or first aid. Also see NHMRC guidance 'Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services'.
  • Hands are washed with soap and water or hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol before and after performing routine care or first aid.

Management of an unwell child or employee

It is important that any employee or child who becomes unwell while at an early childhood service returns home. Services can take sensible precautionary steps while a child awaits collection by a parent or carer.

  • Employees or children experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or sore throat, are isolated in an appropriate space with suitable supervision and collected by a parent or carer as soon as possible.
  • Appropriate actions are taken where employees or children are experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19, including hand hygiene, physical distancing and, where possible, putting on a face mask.
  • Health care plans, where relevant, are updated to provide additional advice on monitoring and identification of the unwell child in the context of COVID-19.

Suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee

If an employee develops any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should:

  • self-isolate immediately, seek advice from their doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398, and get tested
  • tell their employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures their workplace has in place, and update their employer if their situation changes, for example if they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis

In the event of a suspected COVID-19 case, Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health may also require employers to take specific response actions.

Futher information

The response plan and procedure for suspected and confirmed cases should follow DH guidance for managing suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and include:

  • procedures to follow DET or DH guidelines for managing a confirmed case of COVID-19

  • procedures to follow DET guidelines for cleaning and disinfection after a confirmed case of COVID-19


  • Employees who are or are likely to be directly affected by any of the health and safety matters in the workplace have been consulted on these matters, as far as reasonably practicable. This includes independent contractors and employees of independent contractors. If there are health and safety representatives (HSRs), they must be involved in consultation.

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.

1800 136 089 More contact options