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 CHO Directions for applicability.
Restrictions apply in Victoria
The early childhood education and care industry is open for onsite work with a COVIDSafe Plan.
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 the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) 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 your business and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.
Employers should use this checklist with WorkSafe's Exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces guidance. 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 coronavirus (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.
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
Under CHO Directions, an employer:
- may allow employees to work from the workplace, in accordance with the Restricted Activities Directions
- must allow employees to work from home or another location where it is not reasonably practicable for them to work from the workplace
For office work, the direction of the CHO is that employers:
- must allow employees to work from the workplace where it is not reasonably practicable for them to work from home or another location
- must not require employees to work from the workplace if it is reasonably practicable for them to work from home or another location
- may allow employees to attend the workplace in accordance with the requirements of the COVIDSafe Plan for that work premises
When returning employees to the office:
- where there are less than 40 employees who normally work at the work premises, there can be no more than 20 employees at the work premises
- where there are more than 40 employees who normally work at the work premises, no more than 50% of the employees can attend the work premises
Whether working from home is reasonably practicable depends on the specifics of the workplace, the facilities available for employees to work remotely and the ability for employees to do their work safely from home.
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 coronavirus (COVID-19).
Under directions from the CHO, workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules for shared spaces.
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 coronavirus (COVID-19)
A screening process to minimise the potential introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) to the early childhood environment.
- been in contact with anyone confirmed or suspected to have coronavirus (COVID-19)
- symptoms consistent with coronavirus (COVID-19), such as fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss or change in sense of smell or taste
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 current CHO directions, all Victorian workplaces are required to establish and maintain a register of every person who attends the workplace for more than 15 minutes. The register must include:
- the person's first name
- contact phone number
- date and time the person attended the premises
- areas of the premises the person attended
This applies to all employees, sub-contractors, and visitors permitted in the workplace, including workplace inspectors.
If an employee or visitor tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), a current and accurate workplace attendance register will allow employers to immediately identify anyone who has been in close contact with that person while they were infectious.
Information and guidance on record keeping and contact tracing is available on the DH website.
Face masks in workplaces
Directions from the Victorian Chief Health Officer 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 CHO, 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.
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.
Note: Disinfecting and cleaning of toys and equipment is not required after every use.
Further information about cleaning and disinfecting
Considerations for teaching and learning environments
Procedures to minimise risk of transmission of coronavirus (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.
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 coronavirus (COVID-19) in an employee
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 DH 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) 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
In the event of a suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) case, directions from the Victorian Chief Health Officer may also require that employers take specific response actions.
Employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that:
- an employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) and has attended the workplace during the infectious period
- the employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has attended the workplace within the relevant infectious period, which begins on the date 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis (whichever comes first), until the day on which the person receives a clearance from isolation from DH
The response plan and procedure for suspected and confirmed cases should follow DHHS guidance for managing suspected and confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and include: