Last updated 27-10-2020
An alert about the risks associated with potential exposure to novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces.
Restrictions apply in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria
Depending on your industry your workplace may:
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.
(Updated 21 May 2020)
An outbreak of respiratory illness has been caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The outbreak of coronavirus (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. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most recently discovered coronavirus.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. The most common symptoms reported are:
In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:
For more information about the transmission and symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), see the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.
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 coronavirus (COVID-19).
Identifying risks to health
Employers must identify whether there is a risk to the health of their employees from exposure to coronavirus (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 reasonably practicable.
Face masks in workplaces
Directions from the Chief Health Officer about face masks are in place across Victoria. Everyone in Victoria over 12 years old needs to wear a face mask 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 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace.
The type of control measures required depends risks associated as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace. Control measures may include:
If an employee thinks they may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, they should not go to work. Instead, they should:
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 should advise their employer as soon as possible, if they receive a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis, particularly if they have been in the workplace.
Employers should immediately seek advice from the DHHS if there has been a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their workplace.
In the event of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case at the workplace, Directions from the Chief Health Officer may also require that employers take specific response actions.
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).
Everyone in the workplace should practice good hygiene by:
Working from locations other than the usual place of work
The direction of Victoria's Chief Health Officer is that if you can work from home, you must.
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.
When making decisions about whether employees should work from 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