Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Public transport industry

Preventing and controlling employee and passenger exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in public transport vehicles such as trains, trams, buses and ferries.

Last updated

Friday 21 Aug 2020

Industries and topics
  • Infectious diseases

Restrictions apply in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to be closed for onsite work
  • remain open for onsite work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan or High Risk COVIDSafe Plan
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations.

These restrictions may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with any changes for your industry.

How are my 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 restrictions.

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work, however having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with Chief Health Officer Directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any health directions that apply to how your business must operate as well as ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the public transport industry

A coronavirus infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. The most common coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms reported are:

  • fever
    • chills or sweats
      • cough
        • sore throat
          • shortness of breath
            • runny nose
              • loss of sense of smell or taste

                Coronavirus (COVID-19) is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

                • close contact with an infected person
                  • touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles, stop buttons or grab straps/rails) contaminated by a person with the infection

                    Some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as people over 65 or those who have pre-existing medical conditions.

                    For more information about 'close contact' and who is most at risk of serious illness, see the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) webpage - About coronavirus.

                    Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (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 coronavirus (COVID-19).

                    Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that other people are not exposed to risks to their health or safety as a result of the employer's conduct or undertaking.

                    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.

                    More information about employer and employee obligations is set out in the Legal duties section.

                    Controlling the risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19)

                    Face coverings in workplaces

                    Directions from the Chief Health Officer about face coverings are in place across Victoria. Everyone in Victoria over 12 years old needs to wear a face covering outside of their home, unless they have a lawful excuse not to do so. For more information see the guidance Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Face coverings in workplaces.

                    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.

                    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.

                    Consult with employees

                    Employers have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors and any 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 coronavirus (COVID-19).

                    The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.

                    Employers should monitor expert advice as the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation develops (for example from DHHS). In consultation with employees and any HSRs, employers should review risk controls when there are any changes to hazards and risks, to ensure controls remain effective.

                    Screening and quarantining

                    Employers should implement an employee screening process to minimise the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) into the workplace, for example by asking 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.

                    The Staff coronavirus (COVID-19) health questionnaire on the Business Victoria website is a useful screening tool.

                    Ensure employees know what to do

                    An employer's duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to coronavirus (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 DHHS
                      • any unwell employee does not attend the workplace, including those who have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and received a negative test result
                        • employees who have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and are awaiting their results or who are confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases do not attend the workplace

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

                          • self-isolate immediately, seek advice from their doctor or the DHHS 24-hour 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis)

                              Notifiable incidents and coronavirus (COVID-19)

                              From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving coronavirus (COVID-19).

                              Hygiene

                              Employee and passenger hygiene

                              Educate and encourage all employees on the practice of good hygiene, including:

                              • washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating and going to the toilet
                                • covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue
                                  • avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth
                                    • immediately disposing of tissues properly
                                      • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
                                        • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and shared equipment after use
                                          • not shaking hands
                                            • limiting contact with others where possible, including touching a passenger's payment card

                                              Washroom facilities for passengers and employees need to have adequate facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water, paper hand towels or hand drying machines and toilet paper. These must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.

                                              Employers should display signage and posters at terminals and stations and inside vehicles, to encourage passengers to practise good hygiene before, during and after using public transport. The DHHS and the Australian Government Department of Health have posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about coronavirus (COVID-19).

                                              Employers should also:

                                              • consider reducing the number of touch points for passengers and employees
                                                • provide additional hand sanitising stations for employees and passengers where possible, to encourage use

                                                  Personal protective equipment (PPE)

                                                  PPE (for example, gloves, eye protection) is a protection of last resort.

                                                  Unless specific risks have been identified and risk exposure is evident, it is not necessary to install a perspex or 'sneeze' screen between employees and the public due to shorter interaction times.

                                                  Environmental cleaning

                                                  The amount of time the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus survives on inanimate objects and surfaces varies. Environmental cleaning can reduce the risk of the virus spreading via frequently touched surfaces.

                                                  Usual cleaning regimes need to be increased. Follow DHHS advice about cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

                                                  • Ensure regular cleaning including thorough cleaning of transport vehicles such as trains and trams.
                                                    • Ensure frequently touched surfaces and bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected regularly with appropriate detergent or disinfectant solutions. This needs to include doors, handrails stop buttons, grab straps, card readers, barriers and work stations.
                                                      • Frequently cleanse and disinfect personal items used in the workplace such as glasses and phones (for example by using isopropyl alcohol wipes).
                                                        • Workplace amenities including kitchens, lunch rooms, common areas, change rooms, toilets, showers, drink fountains and vending machines should be cleaned industrially and the frequency of this cleaning should increase.

                                                          Employees should continue to use standard cleaning practices at the end of each shift, as part of good hygiene practice.

                                                          Additional cleaning and hygiene controls include:

                                                          • Clean surfaces with appropriate disinfectant wipes. If a surface is visibly soiled it also needs to be thoroughly cleaned with appropriate products.
                                                            • Encourage cleaners to clean wearing gloves and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves.
                                                              • Make alcohol-based hand sanitiser available throughout the workplace.
                                                                • Provide bins in appropriate locations for employees and passengers to hygienically dispose of waste such as used tissues as soon as possible after use.
                                                                  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser for employees to use when they must handle money or EFTPOS machines.

                                                                    Physical distancing

                                                                    Physical distancing is maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people wherever possible, including employees and passengers.

                                                                    Physical distancing should be practised where possible in public and work environments where directed by DHHS.

                                                                    On transport

                                                                    Encourage passengers to maximise physical distancing to the greatest extent possible:

                                                                    • Consider where additional services or pre-booked seating may be possible to facilitate additional distancing.
                                                                      • Encourage passengers to travel outside of peak travel times.
                                                                        • Encourage staff to report breaches by public of safe distancing.

                                                                          Reduce the time employees spend in close contact with passengers where possible:

                                                                          • Encourage the use of contactless facilities (for example, tap and go passes) and cashless payment.
                                                                            • Ask passengers to use the card readers furthest from the driver.
                                                                              • Alter the way passengers enter and exit the vehicle. For example:
                                                                                • request passengers board via the rear door where it does not infringe on safety concerns or the accessibility of the service for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility; and/or
                                                                                • if appropriate, request passengers enter and exit through separate doors to allow single-direction flow through the carriage
                                                                              • Restrict access to the areas immediately around drivers (for example, the first row of seats on buses).
                                                                                • Where possible, consider opening windows or adjusting air conditioning to increase ventilation.
                                                                                  • Reconsider the need for ticket inspections or reduce the number of locations they visit during this time.

                                                                                    At passenger terminals and platforms

                                                                                    • Consider passenger movement flow around the terminal or platform that supports physical distancing, while retaining access for people with a disability or reduced mobility. For example, reviewing passenger flow at barriers and opening selected wide barrier gates to reduce face-to-face contact.
                                                                                      • Consider appropriate signage and floor markings to encourage passengers to practise physical distancing where possible including while waiting for transport, using escalators and lifts and when queueing to board.
                                                                                        • Encourage customer service staff to stay behind information booths, or desks where booths are not available, to maintain sufficient distance from customers.
                                                                                          • It is important that all attendees at worksites including staff and contractors are logged.

                                                                                            If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks, employers must also manage those risks.

                                                                                            Communication and employee welfare

                                                                                            Employers should:

                                                                                            • provide employees with regular updates about coronavirus (COVID-19) safety
                                                                                              • provide updated information to all employees in a format that they can readily understand (for example, in their first language), including employees on leave, contractors and casual workers
                                                                                                • ensure there are contingency plans in place for staff replacement when necessary

                                                                                                  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 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 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 for HSRs.