Last updated 16-07-2021
An alert about the risks associated with potential exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces.
Restrictions apply across Victoria
Depending on your industry your workplace may:
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 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 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.
An outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). A pandemic is the worldwide spread of disease.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. COVID-19 is the most recently discovered coronavirus.
COVID-19 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.
Researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and its long-term effects.
Current research suggests that COVID-19 spreads through:
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 includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.
Identifying risks to health
Employers must identify whether there is a risk to the health or safety of their employees from exposure to COVID-19 at their workplace.
Identifying the risks associated can include:
Controlling risks to health
Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable and when elimination is not possible, reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
Face masks in workplaces
Directions from the CHO about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.
Employers also have a duty to consult with employees and 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 consulting on decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19 in the workplace.
The type of control measures required depends on associated risks as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace. Control measures may include:
Everyone in the workplace should practise good hygiene by:
Ensure employees know what to do
If an employee thinks they may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or develops symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should not go to work. Instead, they should:
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.
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 should advise their employer as soon as possible, if they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, particularly if they have been in the workplace.
In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the workplace, Directions from the Victorian CHO may also require employers to take specific response actions.
Notifiable incidents and 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 COVID-19 in the workplace. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving COVID-19.
Working from locations other than the usual place of work
In some circumstances employees may work from a location other than their usual place of work, this includes working from home. Whether working from an alternate locations is reasonably practicable depends on the specifics of the workplace, the facilities available for employees to work from an alternate location and the ability for employees to do their work safely from an alternate location.
When making decisions about whether employees should work from an alternate location including their home, employers should:
For some workplaces working remotely will not be reasonably practicable (such as those involving customer facing roles or work that relies on specialised plant or equipment). When this applies, other controls such as infection control procedures and other forms of physical distancing must be implemented, to minimise the risk of infection.
Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
Employees also have duties under the OHS Act, which includes that they must:
Other language versions of this safety alert