This document is no longer current and is available on the website for historic purposes only.
Controlling COVID-19 risks as restrictions change
The information below provides detailed guidance for employers on how to control risks associated with exposure to COVID-19. Employers may not need to apply all of the controls listed in this guidance to meet their obligations under the OHS Act. Employers need to assess the level of risk that may arise within their workplace and determine the appropriate control measures to apply, depending on the circumstances, and subject to the Victorian Pandemic Orders.
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.
Screening for COVID-19
Employers should ask employees before they enter the workplace if they are currently subject to any Pandemic Order requirements (such as needing to isolate or quarantine), and instruct employees who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to follow Department of Health (DH) procedures.
A COVID-19 infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.
Researchers are still learning about COVID-19, emerging variants of concern and its long-term effects.
Current research suggests that COVID-19 spreads through:
- airborne aerosols generated by actions like coughing, sneezing, talking 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 or sings – these can enter your eyes, nose or mouth when you are in close contact
- touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles) contaminated with droplets
The symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for are: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss or change in sense of smell or taste.
Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Screen employees over the phone or by other non-contact methods, to reduce person-to-person contact.
In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the workplace, Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health may also require employers to take specific response actions.
Identify those potentially affected by an employee suspected of or confirmed as having COVID-19.
Recording employee schedules and movements enables tracing of those who have come into contact with a confirmed case.
The record should include:
- date and time work was done
- team members who worked together
- specific work area(s) on the construction site
- any breaks taken, including time and location
- movement between sites
Minimise movement between sites, or areas within large sites, as much as possible.
Implement physical distancing of at least 1.5m wherever possible.
Employers should consider each work task to decide if there is a safer way to do the work with more distance between employees.
- place markings on floors and walls to show safe distances in work, transit and break areas
- consider different shift patterns to minimise the number of employees onsite (for example, introducing morning and afternoon shifts)
- stagger start times, breaks and finish times to avoid congestion in high traffic areas
- minimise employees coming into contact with each other as they move around the site
- plan how to maintain physical distancing during bad weather (for example, use of lunch or crib rooms and amenities)
- install temporary physical barriers (for example, fences or screens) between work areas, where appropriate
Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, Workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.
- minimise person-to-person interactions within 1.5m
- minimise the number of individuals involved in activities that need to occur within 1.5m of each other
- provide personal protective equipment (PPE) (for example, gloves or masks)
Note: Minimise employee numbers in restricted spaces (for example, lift shafts).
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.
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.
- displaying hygiene information in prominent locations on the construction site such as tea rooms, site offices, toilets, foyers, lifts and site entrances
- advising employees to follow good hygiene practices
- hand washing facilities such as wash basin, clean running water, soap, paper towels in strategic locations to ensure employees can access them in a timely manner
- access to hand sanitiser and encouraging regular use
- providing hand sanitiser at site entrances and exits, in all hoists, amenities and other high traffic areas of the site
Shared tools, plant and equipment
- drop saws
- elevating work platforms
- providing cleaning products with shared tools, plant and equipment
- keeping cleaning products with tools, plant and equipment as they move around the site
- advising all operators to practice good personal hygiene
- wipe down all tools, plant and equipment before and after use
- work areas and shared equipment
- transit areas including personnel hoists and lifts
- shared facilities including bathrooms and kitchens, crib rooms
Clean and disinfect surfaces in accordance with the DH guidelines on cleaning and disinfection to reduce COVID-19 transmission at construction sites. Read more in Related information.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
This includes providing information about the use, removal, disposal or decontamination of the PPE.
For example, ensuring the PPE does not:
- obstruct vision or mobility, allowing the user to do tasks safely
- introduce other risks
Employees using hoists and lifts may be more at risk to exposure to COVID-19 because it requires them to be in close contact with others and potential contaminated surfaces.
Systems of works may include physical distancing, personal hygiene, PPE and cleaning.
- limiting employee movement between levels and floors on site
- review hoist availability and identify additional hoists for use
- implementing physical distancing and hygiene systems when waiting for hoists, limiting how many persons can use a hoist at the same time
Hoist operators may be exposed to additional risk.
Reduce risks by:
- providing hoist operators with PPE that helps guard against person-to-person transmission and from touching contaminated surfaces (For example, a surgical mask or P2 respirator)
- encouraging frequent hand washing with soap and water or with hand sanitiser available near the hoist
- changing the hoist operator to a different role every 2 hours
Suspected or confirmed case
Note: DH will contact the affected individual to identify the close and casual contacts. If the employee has attended their workplace while they were infectious and had close contact with other employees, DH will also contact the employer.
The response plan and procedure for suspected and confirmed cases should include:
Checklist in portable document format (PDF)
Managing the risk of COVID-19 exposure: Construction
DH: About coronavirus - How does coronavirus spread?External link
DH: Cleaning and disinfecting for business and construction sitesExternal link
DH: COVID-19External link
DH: About coronavirus - How do you define close contact?External link
Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations
DH: Cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmissionExternal link