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The outbreak of COVID-19 has had significant consequences on Australian businesses, forcing many to close for extended periods of time. Now that businesses have started to reopen, it is important to have a COVID safety plan in place. This article will discuss the important considerations for your plan and how to keep your employees and customers safe.

Why Is It Important to Have a COVID Safety Plan?

The purpose of a COVID safety plan is to reduce the likeliness of transmission of COVID-19 between your staff, clients and other third parties that enter your workplace. As an employer, you must ensure your workplace meets health and safety standards, which will include minimising the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Each state and territory will have its own legislation around how your business must operate due to COVID-19 restrictions. If you are unsure which rules apply to you, visit your state and territory government website for more information.

What Should You Include in Your COVID Safety Plan?

Physical Distancing

Current health advice states that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5m or 4sqm of space per person. Maintaining this distance decreases the chances of contracting the virus through an infected person sneezing, coughing or breathing near you.

For businesses in certain industries, government restrictions will limit the number of patrons allowed in your premises. You should check with your state or territory government website to see if any of these restrictions apply to you.

To ensure an adequate physical distance is achieved in your workplace, you should calculate the maximum number of people who are able to fit in the space while maintaining the four square metre rule. You can implement this by:

  • placing markers for people to stand on to ensure they have enough space;
  • limiting the number of staff and customers allowed in the premises at one time;
  • moving or separating work stations to ensure distance is maintained;
  • allowing staff to work at home when the role allows; and
  • stagger workers shifts to reduce the number of people on shift at one time.

Staff Travel

Your staff may have to travel on public transport to get to work, which can increase their chances of contracting the virus. It is important to consider travel to and from work in your action plan. You may consider encouraging your staff to drive to work or changing their shifts to avoid them having to travel during peak times.

Hygiene and Cleaning

It is now more important than ever that you have a clean and hygienic workplace, you can do this by:

  • ensuring there are numerous places for both staff and customers to wash or sanitise their hands;
  • providing cleaning supplies for workspaces and encouraging your staff to clean their space regularly;
  • ensuring that all communal spaces are being cleaned frequently keeping stock of bathroom products including hand soap and paper towels;
  • where possible, increasing the frequency of cleaners to your business; and
  • having posters around the premises that provide instructions on how to properly wash hands.

The health of Customers and Staff 

It is of the utmost importance that anybody who is sick or showing COVID-19 symptoms should be excluded from the premises. You should:

  • ensure all staff who are sick remain home and provide staff with thorough training on what to do if they exhibit symptoms;
  • clearly display conditions of entry for customers and visitors to the premises;
  • offer flexible working arrangements to your staff where possible;
  • remind staff of their sick leave entitlements; and
  • keep records of staff and customers who enter the premises.

It is also important to remember that the COVID-19 outbreak has been a time of heightened stress and anxiety for people. This may be due to:

  • health scares;
  • financial issues;
  • decreased job security; or
  • social isolation.

You should also consider the implications to your employee’s mental health, as well as your own. This may be a good time to explore implementing or updating employee support or counselling programs to benefit your employee’s emotional wellbeing during this time.

COVID-19 Diagnosis or Symptoms

As a business owner, you should be prepared that either a staff member or customer may be diagnosed with COVID-19. Having an action plan in place may reduce further community transmission of the virus.

If you receive notice that an infected person has been in your premises, it is important you follow the correct procedures, including:

  • contacting your local public health unit on 1300 066 055 to await further instructions;
  • providing information to the public health authorities on the staff and customers who may have been in contact with the infected person. This will allow them to track potential subsequent infections;
  • depending on the circumstance of the infection, a deep clean of the workplace may be required;
  • staff, clients and other people who may have been in contact with the infected person should be informed immediately so they can self-isolate and get tested; and
  • staff who may have been in contact with an infected person or are showing symptoms of the virus should self-isolate and not return to work unless they have been tested and cleared of infection.

Your business should be able to resume operation within 48 hours after the public health unit has been notified, as long as they are satisfied, there is no on-going risk.

Key Takeaways

The COVID-19 outbreak has been an upsetting and anxious time for individuals and business owners alike. By having a safety plan in place, you can help prevent further spread of the virus and help your employees and customers feel safe. If your business has been affected by COVID-19 or you would like assistance with understanding your obligations as an employer, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

 

 

 

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