Managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the early childhood education and care services industry

A checklist to help employers in the early childhood education and care services industry prevent or control 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.

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.

Checklist information

Employers should use this checklist with WorkSafe's Exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces safety alert. Employers should also read relevant information and updates from the Department of Health (DH), Business Victoria, Department of Education and Training (DET) and other appropriate government departments and industry bodies.

Strategies to reduce the risk of transmission

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services should consider a variety of controls to support physical distancing and good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the practical limitations of their environment. The following actions are to be considered, adapted and implemented as necessary according to the education setting and the individual needs of employees, children and the wider community.

Employer checklist

Check off each action point in the following checklist. If you are unable to check off a point you should develop and implement measures to address the issue.

Risk information and monitoring

          Physical distancing

          Maintaining a physical distance of 1.5m in an ECEC setting will not always be practical. In a childhood learning environment, physical distancing is most important between adults.

          Where multiple employees are in a room, employees should maintain a distance of 1.5m from each other as much as practical. Workstations should be spaced out as much as possible, and the number of staff in offices limited.

          Maintaining at least 1.5m distance between employees and other visitors to the premises is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

          Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.

          Where a work premises has a publicly accessible space, employers must display a sign at each public entry to each space that includes a statement specifying the maximum number of members of the public that may be present in the space at a single time. That maximum is the number permitted by the density quotient, rounded down to the nearest whole number.

          In consultation with employees and independent contractors, employers should develop a plan to ensure physical distancing is maintained. This could include, where reasonably practical, staggering start times and breaks for staff members.

            Screening for COVID-19

            A screening process to minimise the potential introduction of COVID-19 to the early childhood environment.

                  Arrival and departure

                  Procedures to minimise close proximity between adults, particularly during drop-off and pick-up.

                          Other actions for reducing the risk of transmission

                          Temperature screening (optional)

                          Where temperature screening is undertaken:

                                      Note: High temperature indication should be used in conjunction with screening questions.

                                          Record keeping and contact tracing

                                          Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may be required to keep records of attendance to assist with contact tracing.

                                            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.

                                              Note: It is recommended that staff wear a face mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

                                                • A face mask with 3 layers is recommended by the Victorian Minister for Health, as it provides the best protection. A face mask is always recommended, however a fitted snood or fitted gaiter is allowed. Fitted means the snood or gaiter can extend in a fitted form to snugly fit over and cover your nose and mouth. Loose-fitting face coverings such as bandanas or scarves, or face shields worn without a face mask, are not acceptable.

                                                  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.

                                                  Hygiene

                                                  Controls for employees and children to maintain good hygiene practices.

                                                        • on arrival at the service
                                                        • before and after eating
                                                        • after blowing their nose
                                                        • after coughing, sneezing or using the toilet

                                                                  Cleaning and disinfecting

                                                                  Cleaning needs to be conducted in accordance with the DH information on cleaning and disinfection for workplaces.

                                                                  Establish systems to clean touched surfaces, toys and shared equipment. Services should maintain full adherence to NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines.

                                                                    In addition:

                                                                          Note: Disinfecting and cleaning of toys and equipment is not required after every use.

                                                                          Considerations for teaching and learning environments

                                                                          Procedures to minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19 on-site. Maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5m may not be practical in all situations in early childhood services. Physical distancing is most important between adults.

                                                                                      • Small group play, staggered mealtimes and indoor/outdoor play are considered.

                                                                                          Considerations for offices and staff facilities

                                                                                          Establish systems in line with DH physical distancing recommendations.

                                                                                                    Psychological health

                                                                                                    Employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health.

                                                                                                      The WorkWell Toolkit is an online hub which links small to medium-size businesses with relevant research, tools and information to support them in building a mentally healthy workplace. Further information about the WorkWell Toolkit is available on the WorkWell website.

                                                                                                      Providing routine care and first aid

                                                                                                          Management of an unwell child or employee

                                                                                                          It is important that any employee or child who becomes unwell while at an early childhood service returns home. Services can take sensible precautionary steps while a child awaits collection by a parent or carer.

                                                                                                                Suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee

                                                                                                                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 COVID-19 case, Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health may also require employers to take specific response actions.

                                                                                                                Futher information

                                                                                                                The response plan and procedure for suspected and confirmed cases should follow DH guidance for managing suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and include:

                                                                                                                    Consultation