Managing COVID-19 risks: Rapid antigen tests

Information about the use of rapid antigen tests to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

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

Latest advice on the use of rapid antigen testing in Victoria

This guidance discusses rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 as one of a broader range of COVID-19 control measures that employers should consider as part of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).

Employers must also follow any Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health relating to COVID-19 including in relation to the use of rapid antigen tests and reporting positive results to the Department of Health.

Pandemic Orders in Victoria may be updated at any time. Employers must stay up to date with changes for their industry.

WorkSafe will review this guidance on rapid antigen tests regularly in line with public health advice.

Controlling risks associated with exposure to COVID-19

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.

This duty includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19. 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 is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, it must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must also, so far as is reasonably practicable, monitor the health of their employees. Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than their employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer’s undertaking.

Detailed guidance to assist employers to control risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 is available at:

Rapid antigen tests

Rapid antigen testing is an additional measure employers may consider implementing to support other measures already in place to control risks associated with COVID-19. 

Rapid antigen tests are quick tests with most tests providing results in 15-30 minutes.

A rapid antigen testing program may assist in identifying people who are infectious with COVID-19 and to minimise the risks of COVID-19 at the workplace, however it is not the only relevant control measure. Even if it is determined that a rapid antigen testing program is reasonably practicable for a workplace, it should not be relied upon in isolation or as a substitute for other control measures to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19.

Whether a rapid antigen testing program is reasonably practicable will depend on the circumstances of the particular workplace and employees.

When determining whether a rapid antigen testing program is a reasonably practicable control measure, employers should take into account all relevant matters including the following:

  • Are rapid antigen tests available? If there are no limitations on availability or supply, this may mean it is more likely to be reasonably practicable.
  • How likely is it that employees will be exposed to the COVID-19 virus? This includes, for front line employees, considering the extent of community transmission of COVID-19 where the workplace is located and the number of people they will be in contact with which will increase likelihood of employees contracting the virus. If community transmission is high, the risk to those employees is higher than for places of low community transmission. This may mean implementing a rapid antigen testing program is more likely to be reasonably practicable.
  • Do employees work with people who would be vulnerable to severe disease if they contract COVID-19? If yes, this may mean control measures should be implemented to reduce the likelihood of employees exposing vulnerable persons to infection, such as by using a rapid antigen testing program.
  • What is the likelihood that COVID-19 could spread in the workplace? For example, some work tasks may require employees to work in close proximity to each other, to customers or members of the public. If it is high, this may mean that employers should implement control measures to reduce the likelihood of those employees either catching the virus from others, or transmitting the virus to others, such as by using a rapid antigen testing program.
  • What rapid antigen tests will be used? How accurate are they in detecting COVID-19 in asymptomatic workers? How likely are false positive results in employees without COVID-19? Currently, there is variability in the performance of different rapid antigen tests. The Public Health Laboratory Network and Communicable Diseases Network Australia joint statement on SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen tests provides more information on test performance and limitations.
  • The design of a testing program, which may include:
    • who will be tested
    • how often will employees be tested
    • where testing will occur (eg at home or at the workplace), and
    • processes in place to manage a positive result

Employers also need to review their control measures (including any rapid antigen testing program) from time to time and when circumstances change.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has also released the following statement which can assist employers to understand whether rapid antigen testing may be appropriate for their workplace:

Note: Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health may require employers in some industries to implement a surveillance testing program.

These Pandemic Orders must be complied with and may be updated at any time. Employers must stay up to date with any changes.

What rapid antigen test kits can be used?

Only rapid antigen tests that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are permitted for use in Australia. Both 'point-of-care' (for use under medical practitioner, health practitioner or paramedic supervision) and 'self-tests' (for use without supervision) have been approved by the TGA.

If an employer implements a rapid antigen testing program then the employer must provide TGA-approved tests.

The following TGA guidance can assist employers choose the right test type for their workplace.

When using a rapid antigen test, the manufacturer's instructions for the specific test kit must be followed.

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.

Consultation with employees and health and safety representatives

Employers must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with employees, contractors and health and safety representatives (HSRs), if any, on matters related to health and safety.

Consultation involves:

  • sharing information with employees about the matter
  • giving employees a reasonable opportunity to express views
  • taking those views into account

Where employees are represented by an HSR, the consultation must involve the HSR.

Consultation should involve not only the introduction of any testing policy, but also the detail of the policy including:

  • when and how such tests should be administered
  • the frequency of testing
  • who will conduct the testing
  • the efficacy of the rapid antigen tests available

Consultation with individual employees may be required to identify whether a rapid antigen test is appropriate for them, according to the public health advice and their individual circumstances.

Further information