Preparing for Level 3

21 April 2020

Risks of re-starting

After 5 weeks of lockdown, are there any risks when restarting? Key things to consider include:

  • Will you have the right people with the right skills to operate safely? Some workers may not be available to work and your rostering arrangements may mean people are not used to working with each other. 
  • Will you need to clean/disinfectant workplaces before starting work?
  • Will machinery and tools require maintenance or re-certification?
  • What else needs to be done at work before you can safely recommence work?

Information for workers 

You need to ensure your workers have access to information about keeping themselves well, including physical distancing and hygiene requirements. Don’t assume people will know what to do. Also ensure that extends to advice about how people are travelling to work – for example, two or more people sharing the same vehicle is not a good idea.

Discuss these issues regularly in team meetings; and don’t forget the need for regular communications with people working remotely.

Ensuring workers are well and able to work 

It’s vital that workers who are unwell or suffering symptoms don’t come to work until they recover and have been tested and cleared to work.  The symptoms are:

  • A new or worsening cough
  • A high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing and runny nose
  • Temporary loss of smell.

It's important workers who may be feeling unwell don’t feel compelled to come to work simply for financial reasons.  You need to create an environment where people will inform you if they feel unwell and stay at home.  A key factor in creating that culture is your approach to protecting the earnings of people in that situation.

You should consider screening workers coming into work to ensure they are not presenting symptoms of COVID-19. The same applies to contractors. While conducting temperature checks may at first sound attractive, there are difficulties ranging from not being able to obtain suitable thermometers to having people able to use them accurately.

Ensuring workers remain safe at work?

People who can work from home must do so.

For people who can’t work from home you need to have risk controls in place. In most cases there will be significant changes to work arrangements.  The primary controls are:

  • Supporting people with flu-like symptoms to stay home
  • Ensuring physical distancing  
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Maintaining good hygiene, including hand hygiene and good cough/sneeze etiquette
  • Keeping records to facilitate contact tracing.

In your plan, you need to describe the following:

  1. Which workers need to come into the workplace and why.
  2. How to maintain physical distancing.
  3. The process for cleaning surfaces.
  4. The processes and practices to enable good hygiene, particularly washing hands.
  5. How you will work with other businesses or people you interact with.
  6. Arrangements for supply of essential equipment and products for cleaning and hygiene.
  7. How to inform and train workers on new processes.
  8. What PPE, if any, will be necessary and ensuring workers are trained to use it correctly.
  9. How to engage with your remote workers to ensure they have the right equipment and support to work safely.

Note that for physical distancing, a one metre separation between people at work is the minimum and greater separation where it is reasonably practicable to do so; and two metres in uncontrolled environments, like in public. You should also consider:

  • Whether physical barriers between people are needed because of the nature of the work.
  • Whether you need revolving breaks or common protocols to ensure that physical separation is achieved in team meetings and meal rooms and other shared facilities.
  • Whether you need to make transport arrangements for workers travelling to and from work, to make their commute easier, reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and to respond to any limited capacity on public transport due to physical distancing requirements.

It will take time for people to get used to the new processes so expect productivity to be below pre-COVID levels.

Dealing with suspected exposure

Despite all your best efforts, it’s possible someone may show symptoms consistent with COVID-19. There will be a time delay between symptoms developing, testing, and getting test results.  Unless advised otherwise continue to operate, but your plan needs to ensure that:

  • Workers who are unwell with respiratory symptoms immediately go home, and call Healthline or their GP.
  • Workers with respiratory symptoms who have tested negative for COVID 19 are able to stay home until they’ve been symptom-free for 24 hours.
  • If a worker has tested positive you can provide clear information regarding the worker’s contacts at work. Wait for public health to contact you. They will provide advice about any further actions you are required to take. 
  • The work area of the unwell worker is disinfected.
  • You have information about who was in contact with the worker from when he/she is suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
  • You have a system for keeping in contact with unwell workers and tracking their progress.

To identify people at work who have been in close proximity to someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 you need a register.  The minimum information you will need is:

  • Full name (not nickname)
  • Contact telephone number
  • Address
  • Reason for visit and duration.

You may like to consider:

  • How you will ensure the register is being used correctly
  • Where the register will be located and who is best to make the entries
  • Whether you divide your work space into zones and limit movement between the zones
  • Whether you will closely supervise people who aren’t at your site regularly.

Minimising contact between people and providing good information about contacts may lessen the impact on your business.

Review Process 

Level 3 will mean different ways of working and things may not always go to plan. You and your workers will need to be prepared to learn and adapt to find the best ways to incorporate physical distancing, and good hygiene and cleaning practices.

To make sure you can learn and adapt quickly, engage with your workers to find ways for them to let you know about what’s working, what’s not, and how things could be improved. You need to have good processes in place, which encourage workers to engage in work health and safety matters. Ask your workers – don’t just assume they will tell you.  You might like to consider:

  • The best way to engage with workers and their representatives.
  • Scheduling regular times to review your plan and its effectiveness.
  • How you will communicate changes to processes and make sure all workers know about the changes and are trained to implement them.
  • How often you will update and share new versions of your plan.
  • How you might use health and safety representatives to evaluate the plan’s implementation
  • Whether you have sufficient worker representation to support the implementation of the plan.

Impact on business activity 

It is unrealistic to expect to return to normal productivity levels.

Changes to work procedures or practices may affect the way you’ve routinely managed the risks that arise from your work.  For example, you may have controlled the risk of lifting heavy items by having two people involved and now only one person can do the task.

It’s also possible the new procedures you put in place may bring new risks or challenges you’ve not had to think about before. For example, if you are planning to introduce shift rotations, you’ll need to work out how to manage the associated risks.

For the purpose of this plan, focus on your critical risks – the things that could kill, seriously injure or result in serious illness.  Remember to think about impacts on your remote workers as well.

These are the key steps that you and your workers need to take:

  1. List your critical risks.
  2. Describe the process you follow to review the risk controls.
  3. Identify who was involved in identifying the risks and working out how to manage them - you must involve workers or worker representatives.
  4. Describe any changes you have made regarding how you will control risks. Note: this can be a high level description if the plan identifies where the detailed information can be found.
  5. Carry out a risk assessment for new processes and think about whether they might create new work-related risks.
  6. List the risks you’ve identified and describe where you’ve recorded the list’s controls - you don’t have to include all of the detail in this plan.
  7. Identify who was involved in the risk assessment - you must involve workers or workers representatives.

If your plan introduces shift work or splits teams that would normally work together, describe what steps you will take to:

  • Manage the impacts of shift work, including fatigue, transport, and childcare and the potential dilution of skills available within a split team or rostered workgroup, including health and safety representation
  • Ensure each work group or team has access to the right skills and support to be able to work safely, including access to a health and safety representation
  • Engage with workers and worker representatives to agree changed arrangements in good faith.