Controlling COVID-19 risks as restrictions change
The information below provides detailed guidance 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.
What your employer needs to do to protect you from COVID-19 risks
Under Victoria's occupational health and safety law, your employer must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes actions to prevent the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work.
Your employer must identify whether there is a risk to the health of employees, or other people, associated with COVID-19 in their workplace. They must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- use appropriate control measures to eliminate or reduce these risks
- consult with employees and health and safety representatives (HSRs) if any when doing things such as identifying risks and deciding how to control them
- 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
Your employer must also follow government directions about COVID-19, for example Pandemic Orders from Victoria's Minister for Health.
What your employer should do to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 will depend on:
- the type of work you do
- the level of risk associated with the task
- what is reasonably practicable for the tasks and associated risks, including the availability of supplies
- current Pandemic Orders from the Victorian Minister for Health or government advice, for example guidance from the Department of Health
Some examples of control measures that may be appropriate to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 include:
- physical distancing where possible
- changing work practices to reduce contact with other people
- allowing employees to work from another location, such as at home
- creating workforce bubbles (for example, by keeping groups of employees on the same shift at a single worksite) to minimise the spread of COVID-19 if there is an outbreak or community transmission
- ensuring the workplace has adequate fresh air ventilation
- increasing cleaning and disinfection in the workplace, especially in high-use areas
- avoiding the use of shared phones, desks, tools and equipment
- encouraging everyone in the workplace to practise good hygiene and providing things such as handwashing facilities and hand sanitiser
- ensuring employees do not attend work when unwell and having plans in place if an employee develops symptoms while at the workplace
- allowing extra break time to follow hygiene procedures
- keeping records of workers and visitors who come to the workplace
- where required, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and information and training on why the PPE is required and how to use it safely
If you are worried about how COVID-19 risks are managed at your work
You have the right to be safe at work. If you are worried about how your workplace is managing the risk of COVID-19, you can talk to your employer or HSR (if you have one) about the controls in place.
If you are still concerned about your health and safety, you could:
- follow your workplace's issue resolution processes
- contact WorkSafe's advisory team on 1800 136 089
- seek advice specific to your circumstances, including from employee organisations, legal providers, or official advice issued by the Department of Health or other government agencies
Your health and safety responsibilities
As an employee, you have a duty to:
- take reasonable care of your own health and safety in the workplace
- take reasonable care of the health and safety of others in the workplace
- cooperate with your employer about any action they take to comply with a requirement under the OHS Act
This means you must cooperate with any reasonable policies or directions by your employer to reduce COVID-19 risks, even if you are working from home.
To protect others, you should follow the steps below if you feel unwell, or think you may be a close contact.
What to do if you feel unwell
The symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for are:
- chills or sweats
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- runny nose
- loss or change in sense of smell or taste
Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, you should self-isolate immediately, get tested and if you need it, seek advice from your doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398
Find out more about getting tested
You should also:
- tell your employer as soon as possible
- follow your workplace procedures
- update your employer if the situation changes, for example if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis
What to do if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19
If you have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19 you should follow Department of Health procedures.
If you need to isolate you should tell your employer as soon as possible, and update them if the situation changes, for example, if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Information in your language
For information about WorkSafe in your own language, call our Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450.
Exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces
Contact an advisor
Information for injured workers about your claim and COVID-19
Occupational health and safety – your legal duties
How WorkSafe applies the law in relation to Reasonably Practicable
Working from home
DH: COVID-19External link
coronavirus.vic.gov.au: Symptoms and risksExternal link
coronavirus.vic.gov.au: How do you define 'close contact'?External link
coronavirus.vic.gov.au: I am feeling unwell, what should I doExternal link
DH: Health services and general practice - COVID-19External link
Fair Work Ombudsman: Pay and leave during COVID-19External link