Understanding WHS Responsibilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Australian Work Health and Safety Regulators have just released a “Statement of Regulatory Intent: Regulatory approach to Australian Work Health and Safety Legislation COVID-19”.

This document makes clear the legal obligations for Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulators, Employers, Health and Safety Reps and Employees.

Below are some ADDITIONAL LEGAL OBLIGATIONS employers should be aware of:

Employers Responsibilities

All employers must prepare and take action to protect workers and others at their workplace from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable.

All employers should:

  • Have a plan in place to respond to the issues created by the pandemic;
  • Review their exposure and infection control policies and procedures, actively promote social distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene and increase cleaning of common areas within the work environment;
  • Develop and implement safe systems of work (in consultation with workers and/or their Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) that take into account directions and advice provided by health authorities; and
  • Keep monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it develops, relying on information from authoritative sources such as public health authorities.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) Responsibilities

HSRs are encouraged to work collaboratively with employers to consult on WHS risks and controls during this time. HSRs are entitled to monitor the rate of exposure and infection of illness or disease in the workplace and work with employers to implement appropriate controls. However, HSRs are not entitled to personal medical information of other workers without the consent of the worker.

Worker Responsibilities

Workers have obligations under WHS laws to do what is reasonably practicable to protect themselves and others at the workplace. If a worker believes they are at risk of infection of COVID-19 and they have been at work, they should inform their manager or WHS representative as soon as possible. If they are not satisfied with the response, they should contact their WHS Regulator.

Note: Workers include employees, contractors, labour hire, volunteers, consultants and work experience students.

These COVID-19 safety obligations are in addition to the existing Work Health and Safety Act 2011 obligations.

If you would like assistance with understanding new and existing safety obligations; developing a COVID-19 Pandemic Safety policies and procedures; consulting with workers; or training the team in safe work procedures, please call Hellen Ryan, Principal Consultant, phone: 0429 410 991 or Hellen@Solutions4HR.com.au

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