If you notice that someone may have developed symptoms at work such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, then you should report this to your Manager who can then take action to minimise risk in the workplace.

Safe Work Australia Legislation states that PCBU’s (Person’s Conducting a Business or Undertaking), has a duty to minimise the risk to others in the workplace being exposed to COID 19 so far as reasonably practicable.

If someone is suspected of having the virus or has been exposed, below are steps that Managers can take to manage the risk.

These steps are developed by Safe Work Australia to assist workplace Managers in managing the risk of exposure by workers who are suspected or may have been exposed to COVID 19.

1. Isolate the Person
If the person has serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, Managers must call 000 for urgent medical help. Otherwise, Managers must take steps to prevent the person from potentially spreading the virus by isolating them from others. They must also provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to the affected person, such as disposable surgical mask, and hand sanitiser and tissues, if available. Also provide protection to anyone assisting the person.

2. Seek advice and assess the Risks
Next, they must determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about their concerns and see what they say.

Managers should seek government health advice by calling the NSW State Helpline. They must follow the advice of the NSW Public Health Unit. Managers can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19.

Managers must ensure that they have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform them about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist the NSW Public Health Unit if they need to follow up with them at a later time.

The NSW WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on the situation.

3. Transport
Managers must ensure the person has transport home, to a location they can isolate, or to a medical facility if necessary.

Wherever possible, if a person is unwell or travelling to a location for mandatory isolation, they should use a personal mode of transport to minimise exposure to others. They should not use public transport unless there is no other option.

If the person needs to use a taxi or ride share service (or public transport) then the person should avoid contact with others including the driver to the extent possible. This includes:

  • wearing a surgical mask, if available
  • avoiding direct contact with the driver, including sitting in the back seat to achieve as much separation as is reasonably possible
  • practising good hand hygiene  and cough/sneeze hygiene, and
  • Paying by card.

4. Clean and Disinfect
The affected areas need to be closed off and ensure that other workers or visitors do not use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow.

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas and equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in the Safe Work Australia “Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide”.

The NSW Public Health Unit may also provide your workplace with further information about how and where to clean. Your workplace must follow those instructions.

5. Identify and tell Close Contacts
The NSW Public Health Unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements.

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist the NSW Public Health Unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, your manager must tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. They must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved.

Managers must also seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform them about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected.

6. Review Risk Management Controls
Managers must review COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with all workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required.

They must continue to meet their WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.

If someone at your workplace is confirmed to have COVID-19, Managers may also need to notify the NSW WHS regulator.

The NSW Corona Virus helpline:
New South Wales - 1300 066 055

Do you have a COVID Committee in your workplace? If not, it might be a good idea to ensure that all risks are managed appropriately to ensure the Health and Safety of all workers.

For more information on setting up a COVID Committee speak to your organiser or our USU Support Team on 1300 136 604.

If you are not a union member and wish to join you can do so by visiting our website www.usu.org.au/join