• GL
Choose your location?
  • Global Global
  • Australia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Spain
  • UAE
  • UK

More COVID-19 WHS guidance released, must be adopted

07 May 2020

Key insight for our Australian market on Workplace Safety.

Following the workplace safety principles released by National Cabinet in late April, Safe Work Australia (SWA) has continued to develop their online hub to be a one-stop-shop for pandemic-specific safety needs for large employers, small businesses and workers. SWA has broken down the information to be role and industry specific. 

For instance, there are 23 tabs unique to employers in the Building and Construction industry, ranging from COVID-19's effect on consultation and risk assessment requirements, to the availability of respiratory masks in the workplace, to scenario-based case studies. 

The possibility of the coronavirus re-emerging in waves has been flagged by Australia’s Chief Health Minister Brendan Murphy, so PCBUs will be expected to inform themselves of new safety strategies and implement them beyond the short term. Safety regulators are anticipated to check for recorded and practised pandemic safety measures (for example, seeking evidence of risk assessments, implementation of control measures, ongoing reviews of those assessments, training and consultation).

In addition to these educational tools, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called for state and territory governments to amend their workplace health and safety legislation to incorporate clear and enforceable controls such as social distancing and notification requirements. 

"Creating an obligation for employers to implement the best possible methods of prevention, protection and cleaning, and also to report cases in their workplaces to state health and safety regulators are common-sense reforms which will keep working people safe and help prevent the spread of the virus," says ACTU secretary Sally McManus. 

With or without a specific legislative response, we consider the general duties (‘so far as reasonably practicable’ and ‘due diligence’) combined with SWA’s referable online guidance would nonetheless require the best available COVID-19 control methods, that is reasonably practicable for the business, to be implemented at all workplaces. Therefore, it is crucial that employers ensure that the guides are followed, and risk assessments performed prior to any return to work. Failure to take those steps may result in enforcement action taken not only by Health and Safety Regulators, but by Police through infringement notices, in certain circumstances where public health directives are contravened. 

If you require further information or have any queries in relation to this legal update, please contact a member of our Safety and Employment team who can assist.

For assistance with risk management strategies for your workplace please contact Darren Sharry at DWF Risk.


We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Lachlan Thomas to this article.

Further Reading

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. These will be set when you accept.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page.

Manage your cookies

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. These will be set when you accept.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page.

Necessary cookies

(Required)

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

These cookies are required

Tracking cookies

Anonymous cookies that help us understand the performance of our website and how we can improve the website experience for our users. Some of these may be set by third parties we trust, such as Google Analytics.

They may also be used to personalise your experience on our website by remembering your preferences and settings.

Marketing cookies

These cookies are used to improve and personalise your experience with our brands. We may use these cookies to show adverts for our products, or measure the performance of our adverts.