Safety at COVID-19 drive-through testing centres

This safety alert highlights the hazards and risks associated with traffic management and work related violence and aggression at drive-through COVID-19 testing centres.

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Published: 03 February 2022

Background

An employee at a drive-through COVID-19 testing centre was injured while directing vehicles. The incident occurred when the vehicle deviated from the queue and drove over the employee's foot.

There have also been incidents of violence and aggression reported by employees at COVID-19 testing centres. These include negative and anti-social or harassing behaviour directed towards employees.

Safety issues

The current increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 is placing strain on drive-through testing centres. There are higher volumes of vehicles moving through the sites and longer waiting times. Employees are at increased risk of being struck by a moving vehicle and of experiencing work related violence and aggression.

Recommended ways to control risks

Drive-through COVID-19 testing centres should have traffic management plans in place. The plans should detail:

  • how vehicle traffic is to be directed
  • use of barricades
  • signage
  • safe exit paths (for vehicles and pedestrians), and
  • management of pedestrian and vehicle interaction

The plans should also include a means for persons in vehicles who no longer want to wait in the queue to safely exit.

Employees and health and safety representatives (if any) must be consulted with during the development of a traffic management plan. The traffic management plan should be provided to all employees and contractors on site.

Other safety measures to reduce the risks associated with traffic management include:

  • Segregate pedestrian and vehicle traffic with barricades and bollards.
  • Drivers to turn their vehicle engine off when stationary, specifically in areas where there is pedestrian/vehicle interaction.
  • Install clear visual signage at key points instructing drivers of the traffic management requirements.   

Additional safety measures to reduce the risk of work related violence and aggression include:

  • Review physical layout to ensure there is:
    • good visibility (including adequate lighting where applicable) of all service areas
    • clear signage informing that violence and harassment will not be tolerated
    • security measures in place (such as communication systems or security guard if required)
    • a safe place for employees to retreat to and to escort others to if needed
  • Avoid employees working alone where possible.
  • Provide clear information to visitors about the testing centre, including current waiting times, check-in process and location of toilets.
  • Provide information, instruction and training to employees in:
    • violence prevention measures, including de-escalation strategies such as identifying signs of violence and verbal or non-verbal communication strategies
    • communication systems including emergency response
    • safe retreat spaces
    • the site traffic management plan

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must:

  • so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors and their employees
  • so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors and their employees
  • provide employees and independent contractors and their employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees, independent contractors and their employees, and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures
  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer's undertaking

Further information