Pandemic Orders and industry requirements are regularly updated
This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Minister for Health's Pandemic Orders and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian Pandemic Orders for applicability.
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.
Transmission of COVID-19
Researchers are still learning about COVID-19, its long-term effects and emerging variants.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that can result in mild to very severe illness and death.
The main way COVID-19 spreads is when a person with COVID-19 exhales droplets and/or aerosol particles containing the virus. This can happen when they breathe out, cough, sneeze, speak, shout or sing.
Exhaled droplets range in size. Large droplets settle out of the air faster than they evaporate. Small droplets remain suspended in the air for longer periods. Very fine droplets may contain the virus, and can stay suspended in the air for anywhere from minutes to hours. Small droplets and particles are often referred to as ‘aerosols’.
Transmission of COVID-19 can occur in a number of ways, and possibly in combination.
1. Airborne transmission
This occurs when a person inhales aerosols that may contain viral particles that are infectious.
While the risk of transmission is highest when close to an infectious person, air currents can disperse small droplets and particles over long distances. These may be inhaled by people who have not had face-to-face contact or been in the same space with the infectious person. Airborne transmission is more likely to occur in indoor or enclosed settings that are poorly ventilated, crowded, or both. In these kinds of settings, the virus may remain suspended in the air for longer and increase the risk of spread as people tend to spend longer periods in indoor settings.
2. Droplet transmission
Transmission occurs where exhaled droplets from a person with COVID-19 come into contact with another person's mucosal surfaces (nose, mouth or eyes). The risk of transmission is highest when close to the source, where the concentration of these droplets is greatest.
3. Contaminated surfaces transmission
People may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands.
COVID-19 and the commercial passenger vehicle (taxi and rideshare) industry
Because drivers in the taxi and rideshare industry work in a small, enclosed space, keeping a 1.5 metre distance from passengers is often not possible. Contact with frequently touched, and potentially contaminated, surfaces such as door handles or bags, may also increase their risk of COVID-19.
In addition to following Victorian Pandemic Orders about face masks, extra precautions such as practising good hand hygiene and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces is recommended.
Under the OHS Act, a range of duty holders have health and safety obligations that apply to taking steps to prevent exposure to COVID-19. For example, you have obligations if you are a:
- provider who employs drivers
- driver who is an employee
- self-employed driver
These obligations include:
- Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, including independent contractors.
- Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own and others' health and safety in the workplace and cooperate with their employers about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or Regulations.
- Employers and self-employed people have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people are not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from how they conduct their business undertaking.
More information about employer and employee obligations is set out below in Legal duties.
In the guidance below, 'drivers' refers to self-employed drivers and drivers who are employees or independent contractors.
Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk. Where it isn't possible to eliminate the risk, it must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.
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.
Employers should implement an employee screening process to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace. 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.
If a driver develops symptoms
If a driver develops any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should:
- stop providing services and get tested for COVID-19 immediately, and self-isolate while they await their results
- inform 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 test result)
For more information, call the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 – open 24 hours, 7 days. If you need an interpreter, please press 0 when you call the hotline.
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 take specific response actions.
In instances where a driver tests positive for COVID-19, DH will liaise with the driver and their employer and perform a risk assessment that will initiate contact tracing.
Maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres between drivers and passengers is often not possible in most taxi and rideshare vehicles. However, there are steps employers and drivers can take to stay safe and slow the spread of COVID-19.
These steps include:
- limiting the number of passengers per vehicle
- following the Pandemic Orders about face masks
- avoiding physical contact with passengers and where possible asking passengers to:
- sit in the back of the vehicle
- handle their own luggage where possible – passengers and drivers should use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after handling luggage
- use contactless payments – where cash payment is required, drivers and passengers should use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after paying
When waiting at taxi ranks, drivers should observe physical distancing measures, staying 1.5 metres away from others.
Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surface areas that are frequently touched by drivers and passengers can help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Cleaning needs to be conducted in accordance with the DH information on cleaning and disinfection for workplaces.
See the Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria website for information about specific cleaning requirements set out in regulations for commercial passenger vehicles.
Employers and drivers should increase cleaning regimes for commercial passenger vehicles, including:
- regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in the vehicle which the driver and passengers touch during a shift, such as doors and door handles, seatbelts, seats and windows
- ensure surfaces are thoroughly cleaned with appropriate disinfectant wipes if a passenger spreads droplets (such as by sneezing, coughing or vomiting
- thoroughly clean any visibly soiled surface with appropriate products
- clean vehicles using standard cleaning practices to ensure good hygiene at the end of each shift, for example wipe down surfaces with disinfectant, focussing on frequently touched surfaces such as doors and door handles, seatbelts, seats and windows, window controls, payment terminals and boot lids
- use alcohol-based hand sanitiser or thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before and after cleaning any frequently touched surfaces
- ensure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), as recommended by a cleaning product's manufacturers, is worn when cleaning vehicles
Driver and passenger hygiene
Drivers and passengers should practise good hygiene by:
- using alcohol-based hand sanitiser regularly, particularly before and after opening and closing doors, disposing of waste, moving luggage, exchanging payment and after personal contact
- washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
- covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or elbow if no tissue available, and immediately disposing of tissue and cleaning hands
- avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and shared equipment (for example payment terminals) after use
- not shaking hands
- limiting all other contact with other people or their belongings where possible, including touching a passenger's payment card or cash
- not having air conditioning on recirculate - set it to external airflow or open windows instead
Where appropriate, sealable waste bags should be provided in vehicles to enable hygienic disposal of rubbish, such as used tissues, immediately after use. Employers and drivers should ensure alcohol-based hand sanitiser is readily available inside the vehicle.
Employers should provide adequate facilities and products to allow employees to maintain good hygiene practices, including alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes and washrooms with soap and water for washing hands.
Communicating with passengers
Employers and self-employed drivers should display signage in vehicles for passengers on actions they can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria has a poster for this purpose.
Drivers should be made aware of, and inform passengers of the following:
- The importance of good hygiene practices and physical distancing to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Where possible, passengers who are unwell or travelling to their location of mandatory quarantine or self-isolation should use a personal mode of transport, or transport dedicated for this purpose (such as transport provided for people returning from overseas).
- If a passenger is unwell or is travelling to their place of mandatory quarantine or self-isolation and they have no option but to use a commercial passenger vehicle, they:
- must follow the Pandemic Orders about wearing a face mask – if the passenger does not have one, the driver should supply one
- should avoid direct contact with the driver, including sitting in the passenger side of the back seat to achieve as much physical distance as is reasonably possible
- should follow good hygiene practices (see above)
If a passenger refuses to take the above precautions and this may present a risk to the driver's health and safety, the driver may choose to refuse or terminate the trip. It is not acceptable for drivers to refuse or cancel a trip based on a passenger's nationality, disability or cultural background. There are equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws that apply to fare refusal.
Communicating with employees
- provide updated information to all employees in a format that they can readily understand (for example in their own language) and in multiple formats (such as email, posters, verbal), including to employees on leave, contractors and casual workers
- ensure there are contingency plans in place to replace unwell staff when necessary
Employers have duties under the OHS Act, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
- where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, eliminate the risk. Where it isn't possible to eliminate the risk, reduce it, so far as is reasonably practicable
- provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees and independent contractors
- provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
- monitor the health of employees
- monitor conditions at any workplace under the employer's management and control
- provide information concerning health and safety to employees, including (where appropriate) in languages other than English
- ensure that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer
- consult with employees and health and safety representatives (HSRs), if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect or are likely to directly affect them
Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people are not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from how they conduct their business.
A person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, and the means of entering and leaving it, are safe and without risks to health.
Employees also have duties under the OHS Act, which includes that they must:
- take reasonable care for their own health and safety
- take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee's acts or omissions at a workplace
- co-operate with their employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with a requirement imposed by or under the OHS Act
The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and powers to take issues further if necessary. For more information see the guidance on powers of health and safety representatives.