Work safety protocols during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant implications for workplace health and safety, requiring sudden adjustments from workplaces to manage risks associated with the pandemic and ongoing changes to workplace conditions.
As a result, various workplace safety standards and guidelines have been updated or developed to assist workplaces in adapting to the new ‘COVID-19 normal’ environment.
International best practice
Among these standards and guidelines are new international guidelines for workplace health and safety in the COVID-19 pandemic, which were developed and made publicly available by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in late 2020.
The ISO/PAS 45005:2020 Occupational health and safety management – General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic represent international best practice, and provide thorough but broad recommendations for managing risks to workers and stakeholders operating during the pandemic.
The Guidelines, which are aimed at complementing existing local guidance and legislation, are suitable for organisations of any size or location.
In Australia, a National Guide for Safe Workplaces – COVID-19 was released by Safe Work Australia which provides practical guidance to employers and other duty holders in managing WHS risks during the pandemic.
Additionally, a COVID-19 Model Code of Practice has been drafted with the intention of providing guidance on the mitigation of COVID-19 risks in the workplace.
The draft Code of Practice considers the COVID-19 Safe Working Principles of Australia’s National Cabinet and provides an example which may be adopted by state and territory governments.
These guidance resources have some recommended actions in common, including (among others):
- planning and assessing risks related to COVID-19
- managing the increased risk to psychological health and safety
- regularly and clearly communicating with workers
- reviewing emergency preparedness procedures
- preparing workplaces and workers for return to the workplace
- consulting with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19
State and territory governments and regulators have released an abundance of guidance material for specific industries and jurisdictions. As the pandemic continues, we can expect to see further guidance developed, potentially changing what is considered ‘best practice’.
To continue managing and minimising the risks related to COVID-19 as far as reasonably practicable, it is important for duty holders to stay informed of the latest developments in guidance and legislation.
Information for your jurisdiction
- Safe Work Australia: COVID-19 Information for Workplaces
- Comcare: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe ACT: COVID-19 Health and Safety Advice
- SafeWork NSW: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- NT WorkSafe: Advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe Queensland: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- SafeWork SA: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe TAS: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe VIC: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe WA: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- WorkSafe NZ: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)