How to complete your COVID-19 Safety Plan

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How to complete your COVID-19 Safety Plan

The Tasmanian Government’s COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework supports workplaces as they re-open or expand their business activities during the pandemic, while ensuring the health and safety of all Tasmanians.

Organisations need to decide on what needs to be done differently as they move to reopen, but with restrictions, and then how to communicate this and implement clearly.

To comply with the new minimum standards, you must complete a safety plan and/or checklist. Individual Safety Plans will depend on the size and nature of your workplace.

This How to will go through what the minimum standards are, and information and tools to support your organisations compliance with each one. We will have a particular focus on supporting smaller community service organisations (employing fewer than 20 people) through this process.

TasCOSS also ran a Workshop on How to Complete your COVID-19 Safety Plan. The workshop includes a presentation by Brett Hislop from WorkSAfe Tasmania on the TasCOSS YouTube channel, and a Q&A session which may be helpful.

At the end of this document we list some resources for larger organisations or those wanting further information.

What are the minimum standards?

The Minimum Standards have been developed in consultation with WorkSafe Tasmania and Public Health and provide a list of requirements to manage the ongoing risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.

The minimum standards apply to all businesses, industry-specific guidelines for the Social Assistance Services Sector are framed around these minimum standards and are contained in six specific regulations with a range of actions and suggestions you can use to make sure you meet them.

The guideline that relates to the community services industry is:

Many organisations won’t be able to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 entering or spreading in your workplace completely, instead you will need to consider other ways to reduce the risk as far as practical.

Here is a list of the minimum standards, then we’ll go into what you need to do to comply with each one.

The minimum standards a workplace will be required to meet are:

  • manage the risks of a person contracting or spreading COVID-19 in the workplace
  • implement and maintain a cleaning schedule across the workplace
  • have good hygiene procedures and practices (such as washing and/or sanitising of hands)
  • ensure workers who have been instructed to quarantine or self-isolate don’t come to the workplace
  • make sure physical distancing requirements are met by workers, contractors and others entering, leaving or moving around the workplace.
  • provide information, training and supervision to workers on how the risks of COVID-19 are to be managed and ensure all processes and procedures are applied by the workers.
  • provide information and instruction to other people who attend the workplace about how they are to comply with your processes and procedures, and make sure they apply them.

    As you work through the minimum standards, you will need to note what you’re already doing well, and develop an implementation plan for new processes. This information will become your organisation’s COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Here are the templates you can also use to collect this information, and a simple overview of the standards and ideas on controls to comply. There are additional Safety Plan templates for larger organisations or those wanting more information at the end of this How To.

    OK, let’s start with the first minimum standard:

    Implement and maintain a cleaning schedule across the workplace

    The employer must prepare, implement and maintain a schedule for cleaning, and where appropriate disinfecting, that ensures the workplace is routinely cleaned. This must include furniture, equipment and other items.

    The cleaning schedule should be in writing so all workers are aware of the requirements. The schedule should take into account the level of risk of exposure to, contracting or spreading COVID-19 within the workplace.

    This schedule is to set out both the frequency and method that cleaning and disinfecting is to be done.

    The employer must provide all the supplies and equipment necessary to ensure that the cleaning schedule implemented for the workplace can be complied with.

    Consult with your staff to identify the areas, methods and frequency of cleaning you’ll need as well as the supplies and equipment required. You will need to take into account the level of risk of exposure to, contracting or spreading COVID-19 within the workplace.

    Remember that work vehicles are included as part of your workplace.

    Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. These can be in the form of liquids/sprays or wipes, and are labelled as “disinfectant” on their packaging. Disinfectants are usually only necessary if a surface is contaminated with potentially infectious material, or if your workplace has many customers or others entering each day.

    Remember to look at the Social Assistance Services Guidlines from WorkSafe which has great information for each standard to consider.

    Here is link to a practical checklist with a series of questions that will assist you to review your organisation and determine what your cleaning requirements are.

    If you need further information about what cleaning products you’ll need, and how to clean a range of items, see the below links. The first link has a General Section with good information for the Community Services industry, the second link has lots of FAQs and other information that may be of use:

    Ensure you have a current (less than 5 years old) corresponding Safety Data Sheet for each cleaning chemicals and any required PPE (gloves, eye protection) as stated in the safety data sheets.

    If you use a cleaning contractor they will be responsible for managing PPE. Here is some more information relating to PPE – only if you need it.

    When you’ve finalised your schedule, document the details in a written cleaning schedule so all workers are aware of the requirements. The schedule should include both cleaning frequency and method. This will form part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Have good hygiene procedures and practices (such as washing and/or sanitising of hands)

    The employer is to put a hygiene procedure in place to ensure all persons at the workplace are observing appropriate hygiene measures to minimise the risk of exposure to, contracting or spreading COVID-19 within the workplace. This procedure is to address the hand cleaning by workers and other people in the workplace using soap and water or the use of hand sanitiser, as appropriate for the circumstances.

    The employer must provide all the supplies and equipment necessary to ensure that the hygiene procedure implemented for the workplace can be complied with.

    This resource from Safe Work Australia will take you through a series of questions to assess your current handwashing facilities and practices and help you identify any further actions you need to take:

    Your organisation will need to provide the supplies and equipment necessary to ensure that the hygiene procedure implemented for the workplace can be complied with.

    Visitors will also need to know their requirements so consider signage at key locations. Here are some resources that may be helpful:

    Once you’ve finalised your processes, document the details so all workers know what to do. This will be a part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Ensure workers who have been instructed to quarantine or self-isolate don’t come to the workplace

    The employer must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a worker does not enter or attend the workplace if the worker is required to isolate or quarantine. A worker must not enter a workplace if they are required to isolate or quarantine other than: 1. to obtain medical treatment or testing in relation to COVID-19 , and the workplace is the appropriate place to receive such treatment or testing, or 2. the worker is required or permitted, under a direction made in relation to COVID-19, to enter or be at the workplace, and does so in accordance with that direction, or 3. there is an emergency and the worker is entering or at the workplace to protect: - the safety of the worker, or - the safety of another person, or - the worker’s property or the property of another person.

    Controls you can consider implementing to meet this requirement include:

    • Directing your workers to stay home if they are sick, and if they are displaying symptoms of COVID‑19 ask them to call the National Coronavirus hotline (1800 020 080).
    • Remind staff of their leave entitlements if they are sick or required to self‑quarantine.
    • Instruct workers to tell you if they are displaying symptoms of COVID‑19, have been in close contact with a person who has COVID‑19 or have been tested for COVID‑19.
    • Ensure contractors, suppliers, visitors, clients confirm they are well when they “sign in”
      • arrange contactless deliveries, and electronic paperwork
      • review induction processes for new contractors to ensure they are aware of requirements
    • Display signs about the symptoms of COVID‑19 in the workplace.
    • Facilitate working from home, if possible, for staff who are required to self‑quarantine but are not displaying symptoms of COVID‑19.
    • Consider your arrangements if a significant number of workers are unable to work

    Remember to treat personal information about individual workers’ health carefully, in line with privacy laws.

    Once you’ve finalised your processes to meet this standard, document the details so all workers know what to do. This will be a part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Make sure physical distancing requirements are met by workers, contractors and others entering, leaving or moving around the workplace.

    An employer must take all reasonable steps to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances that: -

    • Each person at the workplace, or entering or leaving the workplace, maintains a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other at the workplace, or when entering or leaving the workplace, and
    • the total number of people present in a single space, at any one time, does not exceed the number calculated by dividing the total area of the space used, as measured in square metres, by 4.

    If it is not reasonably practicable to comply with the physical distancing requirements described above, then the employer must ensure that control measures are implemented in keeping with the requirements to manage the risks to health and safety relevant to COVID-19.

    A person at, entering or leaving a workplace must ensure that s/he complies with the requirements of the physical distancing requirements of that workplace, if it is reasonable to do so.

    There is a lot to consider for this requirement.

    To start, you'll need to work out the capacity of your premises so you can follow the requirements of 4 square metres per person. To do this, calculate the area of a room/space (length in metres x width in metres) and divide that number by 4. This will ensure you know the maximum capacity of your gathering/ dining spaces. 

    You need to do what you can to make sure there is 4 square metres in your workplace per person and keep everyone apart at least 1.5 metres, where possible. 

    This checklist will help you review and implement physical distancing measures at your workplace:

    Here are some good guidance and info for specific areas of the Community Services Sector, the Office one includes considerations for "hot desking":

    Other links and helpful resources for this standard:

    Once you’ve finalised your processes to meet this standard, document the details so all workers know what to do. This will be a part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Provide information, training and supervision in respect to COVID-19.

    The employer must provide each worker at the workplace (including contractors and volunteers) with information, training and instruction on:

    • the risks in relation to COVID-19, and
    • the control measures implemented in the workplace to mitigate those risks, in relation to COVID-19.

    The employer must provide adequate supervision to ensure control measures are implemented in the workplace in relation to COVID-19.

    The employer must also ensure that information and instruction is provided to other people in the workplace about the control measures in place to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and the requirements of those people to apply the control measures.

    The information and instructions are to be in a format that is reasonable to the circumstances.

    A worker or other person, at the workplace or entering or leaving the workplace, must comply, so far as they are reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction that is given by the employer to allow the employer to manage the risks to health and safety within the workplace.

    As you develop and implement your safety plan, consultation and change management are key.

    Things to consider for this requirement include:

    • providing your workers with written advice on how risks are being managed
    • displaying signs around workplace of risk control requirements
    • provide training or instruction on your new procedures and processes, new equipment or PPE
    • make sure workers know what to do if they fell unwell
    • communicate with customers/clients on your website/social media about changes to your business practices
    • ensure your information meets any specific language needs of your workers or consumers

    Workplace Safe has some good information on training and supervising workers:

    Once you’ve finalised your processes to meet this standard, document the details so all workers know what to do. This will be a part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

    Managing risks to health and safety

    Consider other ways to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.

    You should consider the nature of your workplace, the environment in which you operate and the type of work you do when considering what reasonable steps you can take to reduce the risk in your workplace.

    As well as the risk of a person contracting or spreading the virus, you must also manage other risks associated with coronavirus including:

    • the risk to health and safety of workers doing unfamiliar tasks, and
    • risks to mental health.

     

    This standard is about taking some time to consider any other risks COVID related that need to be managed.

    Worksafe Tasmania has a risk assessment template that can be helpful for this process, as well as more guidance on undertaking risk assessments:

      Here are some resources and information to assist with the risks relating to unfamiliar tasks and mental health of your staff.

      Unfamiliar tasks

      Consult with workers about their skills, training needs and workloads before they are moved to new or unfamiliar work

      If you need to adjust shifts, hours or systems of work, you must do a risk assessment and control any risks you find.

      Issues you may need to consider include fatigue, stress, work breaks, your workers' training/skill levels, and providing personal protective equipment, information, training and supervision to insure your workers' safety.

      Here are some resources from WorkSafe Tasmania on some of these areas:

      Mental Health

      Consider also the risks to mental health of workers due to the pandemic. Controls to manage this risk include:

      • offering information and support,
      • including counselling through an employee assistance program,
      • ensuring a supportive workplace culture, or
      • providing information on external service providers such as Lifeline or Beyond Blue.

      Below is some more information and resources relating to mental health:

      Mental health – Worksafe Tasmania

      Looking after your own mental health

      Here are some practical ways to look after your mental health amid the Coronavirus pandemic 

      • Try to maintain perspective - while it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to control the situation.
      • Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage - Exposure to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. Stay informed, but limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.
      • Try to maintain a practical and calm approach - widespread panic can complicate efforts to manage the outbreak effectively. Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around observing good hygiene habits. 
      • Try not to make assumptions - try to remember that the Coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.
      • Seek support - it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news of the outbreak. If you have experienced mental health issues activate your support network, acknowledge feelings of distress and seek professional support early. For those already managing a mental health issue, continue your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms.

      Managing difficult conversations with employees

      The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting Australian life in ways never seen before. Beyond its obvious health impact, the economic impact of COVID-19 is huge. For many businesses this can mean parting ways with employees who have been loyal and longstanding contributors to the business.

      This is obviously difficult for employees, but also for managers and small business owners. There is no single way to handle the conversation, particularly when it is due to the extraordinary circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus. Each business, workplace and employee relationship is different, so while the circumstances may differ, there are some basic points to bear in mind that can ease the process for everyone. 

      • Preparing for the conversation - be upfront about why you're meeting, understand what government support may be available and make sure the legalities are taken care of. 
      • Having the conversation - demonstrate respect and compassion, don't make assumptions about how people will react, direct them towards support, offer help, show that you trust them, set a clear 'end date' and stick to it, don't make people keep their departure a secret and be consistent (particularly when multiple employees are leaving). 
      • Following up after the conversation - stay in contact, if you are concerned about their reaction to the conversation talk to them further and encourage them to seek support and reflect on the conversation and be kind to yourself. 

      Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

      An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological wellbeing of all employees and includes services for immediate family members.

      Your EAP can be particularly important during this time. Consider reminding your staff about your EAP, how to access it, and the details of how it can support them.

      For more information on EAPs, here is a link to the peak body for EAPs, the Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia:

      Other workplace mental health resources

      Beyond Blue - this is a great training package for workplaces

      University of Tasmania - this is an excellent white paper and gives an overall framework for managing mental health in the workplace:

      Other resources:

      Once you have identified any other risks, you then need to look at controls.

      Identifying the most effective control(s) to manage the risks

      • use the hierarchy of controls to select the most effective control option, you may need more than one
      • the other minimum standards are all required controls, but you may identify others

      Consult with your staff about which control measures would work best for your organisation. Different organisations will manage different risks in different ways.

      It’s up to you and your team to review options and decide what will work best for you.

      Hierarchy of Controls for COVID-19:

      INSERT DIAGRAM

      Responding to an Incident of COVID-19 in the workplace

      The employer at a workplace must ensure that an emergency plan is prepared for the workplace that provides for emergency procedures, testing of the procedures and the provision of information, training and instruction to relevant workers in implementing the emergency procedures

      Notifying Public Health by phoning 1800 671 738 is the first step.

      Your organisation will need a basic response plan detailing how your workplace will respond should the workplace become contaminated, or your workplace has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

      If there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your place of business, you should

      Worksafe requires notification of COVID-19 cases in some instances, which is separate from notifying Public Health:

      How do we demonstrate we comply?

      You are required to be able to demonstrate how you are complying with the Minimum Standards, if asked by a workplace inspector.

      You will be asked for a completed checklist or COVID-19 Safety Plan.

      As you work through the different minimum standards, document the ways you are meeting the requirements, and note any additional actions or new processes you need to implement in order to comply.

      Consider creating an action list to help you manage the work that needs to be undertaken. Remember to consider including new information or processes in a written procedure or information sheet, so your workers can refer to it if needed, and you have instructions for new workers at induction.

      Implement your plan

      Once you have worked through your requirements and identified your actions, work with your team to implement the new actions and processes.

      Training your staff is a key component of implementation. Ensure everyone knows the new requirtements, that information is provided in a range of formats to meet your workers needs, and check in that everyone feels confident and comfortable with the controls being implemented.

      Review and adjust if needed

      Plans should be flexible, so once new processes have been implemented, check in on how they're going.

      Check in with your workers, are the changes working? Are they sustainable? Does everyone know what they're doing? Do they have the supplies needed? Are visitors and clients following the rules?

      When new systems are implemented, easier alternatives can become apparent - encourage your staff to raise ideas and improvements and allow your plan to be flexible Make adjustments if more effective or simpler methods are identified. Use the same process of docuemnting changes, implementing them, and ensuring everyone is trained or informed of new requirements.

      Also check in regularly with restriction requirements and current COVID-19 information at the state governments website, and WorkSafe Tasmania.

      Celebrate Success

      Last of all - don't forget to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work and success of your team in working through these requirements, and ensuring your organisation is complying. By meeting the requirements you are providing a safe environment for everyone who interacts with your organisaiton, and ensuring you can continue to the important work you do.

      Help and further information

      Worksafe Tasmania

      • Fact Sheet – An overview of COVID-19 Safety Plans.
      • Checklist – how to keep your workers safe and limit the spread of COVID-19 and to help you to start thinking about measures to include in your COVID-19 Safety Plan.
      • Personal protective equipment

      Information for segments of our industry that may be useful:

      Tasmanian Government

      • Business Tasmania Hotline on 1800 440 026

      Safe Work Australia