Managing COVID-19 risks: Hospitality industry

Information for employers operating cafes, restaurants, food delivery, takeaway and bar services on keeping employees and patrons safe during the pandemic.

Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian CHO Directions for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to close temporarily for on-site work
  • remain open for on-site work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

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 Directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO).

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 CHO Directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any health directions 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.

COVID-19 and the hospitality industry

Notifiable incidents and COVID-19

From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the OHS Act specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the workplace. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving COVID-19.

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

Under the OHS Act, 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. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.

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.

Identifying risks

Employers must identify hazards and, if necessary, assess the level of risk to the health of employees from exposure to COVID-19 at their workplace. This must be done in consultation with:

  • health and safety representatives (HSRs), if any, and
  • employees, so far as is reasonably practicable

Consider risks that are significant for the hospitality industry, including:

  • employees operating in close proximity with patrons or each other
  • contact with commonly touched surfaces, including tabletops, counters, handrails, doors, cash registers, touch screens, phones, keyboards, scanners and EFTPOS terminals
  • sharing workplace amenities such as kitchens, lunch rooms, communal areas, change rooms, toilets, drink fountains and vending machines
  • contact with delivery drivers and other contractors attending the workplace
  • exchanging cash money with patrons

At risk employees

Some employees may be at greater risk of getting COVID-19 or becoming more seriously ill if infected. The Department of Health (DH) has the latest information on 'at risk' groups.

Controlling risks

Where a risk to health or safety 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, as far as is reasonably practicable.

The types of control measures required depends on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace, including individual work areas.

Face masks in workplaces

Directions from the Victorian CHO about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.

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.

Training

Employers should provide adequate training for employees to minimise risks to health and safety, such as training on the correct use of personal protective equipment if it is required, good hygiene practice and updated cleaning procedures.

Screening and quarantining

Employers should implement an employee screening process to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace. For example, they could ask employees before they enter the workplace if they are subject to any health directions (such as isolation, quarantine or in relation to travel), have been in contact with any confirmed cases of COVID-19, or have any of the symptoms listed above, however mild.

Ensure employees know what to do

An employer's duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable includes ensuring that:

  • employees know what to do or who to notify if they feel unwell or suspect they've been infected, according to the information provided by DH
  • any unwell employee does not attend the workplace, including those who have been tested for COVID-19 and received a negative test result
  • employees who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting their results or who are confirmed COVID-19 cases do not attend the workplace

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.

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 or confirmed COVID-19 case at the workplace, Directions from the CHO may also require employers to take specific response actions.

Record-keeping for contact tracing

Under directions issued by the Victorian CHO, workplaces are required to keep records of attendance to assist with contact tracing.

Physical distancing

Maintaining 1.5 metres distance between employees, customers and other visitors to the premises is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Under Directions issued by the CHO, workplaces are required to comply with particular density quotient rules.

In consultation with employees and independent contractors, employers should develop a plan to ensure physical distancing is maintained. This could include, where reasonably practical, the staggering of start times and breaks for employees and the appointing of one staff member per shift to ensure physical distancing rules are abided by staff and patrons.

The advice below may include activities that may not be permissible. Employers should check what activities are permissible on the DH website.

Hygiene

Please refer to the DH website for the latest advice on good hygiene practice.

Employers should develop good hygiene practices for both employees and patrons, including:

  • Develop infection control policies that outline measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as, training employees on how areas may need to be cleaned and disinfected in the event of any contamination.
  • Train employees to wear gloves when cleaning and wash their hands correctly after cleaning.
  • Train employees on correct hand-washing techniques, including, but not limited to washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a >70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and to dry hands thoroughly. Employers may position posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands.
  • Instruct employees to wash their hands before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after changing tasks and touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Inform employees of workplace hygiene standards – for example, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items, such as phones, on meal surfaces.
  • Display information about the symptoms of COVID-19 and the need to get tested and stay home when unwell in highly visible locations throughout the venue.
  • Inform patrons of workplace hygiene standards, including:
    • washing their hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser upon arrival
    • washing their hands, or using sanitiser, in restrooms
    • not entering the premises if they feel unwell
  • Where possible encourage contactless payment, invoicing and recording of contact details.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers in appropriate locations for patrons and employees to use, such as entries and exits.
  • Clean frequently touched areas and surfaces several times a day with a detergent or disinfectant solution or wipe, for example EFTPOS equipment, elevator buttons, handrails, tables, counter tops, door knobs, sinks and keyboards.
  • Encourage employees to minimise the amount of personal property they bring to work and to clean with disinfectant any personal property they do bring to work, such as sunglasses, mobile phones and iPads.

Legal duties

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
  • 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 their 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 HSRs, if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them

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 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.

Further information and resources