COVID-19 workplace health and safety update

10 National COVID-19 safe workplace principles announced

The National Cabinet has agreed to 10 ‘National COVID-19 safe workplace principles’ to underpin the development of further work health and safety (WHS) guidance on COVID-19.

Safe Work Australia (SWA) will develop and endorse the guidance to help employers manage health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.

The 10 principles on which the guidance will be based are:

  1. All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to WHS as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.
  3. To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must, in consultation with workers and their representatives, assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.
  4. As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.
  5. Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.
  6. Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, and consistent with advice from health authorities.
  7. Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, to ensure business and worker confidence, a commitment to a consistent national approach is key, including a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by COVID-19.
  8. SWA, through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.
  9. States and Territories ultimately have the role of providing advice, education, compliance and enforcement of WHS and will leverage the use of the SWA central hub in fulfilling their statutory functions.
  10. The work of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will complement the work of SWA, jurisdictions and health authorities to support industries more broadly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic appropriately, effectively and safely.

COVIDSafe

Employers are urged to encourage their workers to sign up to the Federal Government’s new COVIDSafe app to help control COVID-19 risks as pandemic restrictions begin to ease.

EMA Legal can assist employers with the 10 principles, the further guidance developed by SWA and any other employment related matters.


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