New cleaning and safety protocols released for workplaces

New online resource hub for creating COVID-19 safe workplaces launches.

Safework Australia will be the single source of information for work health and safety (WHS) guidance workplaces can use to help manage risks posed by COVID-19, the Morrison Government announced on Tuesday.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the Safework Australia website has been updated to provide a central information hub for creating COVID-19 safe workplaces following almost a million visits to the website last month.

The updated website gives users guidance that is directly relevant to their specific industry. There are 23 industries to choose from as well as general industry information for those whose industry is not listed.

It includes guidance about physical distancing, personal protective equipment, workers’ compensation, how to conduct risk assessments and design emergency plans, as well as providing case studies to help explain how to manage the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.

There is also a dedicated resource page for cleaning, with specific information listed for employers, small business and workers.

Porter said the newly updated website is the largest repository of information available to ensure there is a consistent headstart approach to understanding how to safely reanimate any particular business.

“What we’re doing is rebuilding the Safework Australia website to provide as much information, and as granular detail, as reasonably possible, so businesses can get a head start,” Porter said.

“They can navigate fairly simply to get precise answers to the questions that will apply to their particular business, whether they are a manufacturer, or an abattoir, or a café.

“I would encourage people to get onto the website as they go about reopening their businesses so they can get a very thorough headstart as to how to do that safely, and effectively, and in accordance with state and territory laws and regulations,” Porter said.

A toolkit is also being developed for businesses to use, to help them be work ready in a COVID-19 safe environment.

Building a COVID safe economy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said to get Australia back to work, Australians have to go back in a “COVID safe economy”.

The National Cabinet has agreed to establish a three-step framework to gradually remove baseline restrictions to enable Australians to live in a COVID-19 safe economy, with details to be determined on Friday 8 May 2020.

“Thousands of Australian lives have been saved, when you look at the experience of how coronavirus has affected so many countries around the world. But we now need to get a million Australians back to work. That is the curve we need to address.”

Morrison said more than 5 million Australians were on the JobKeeper payment, with a further 1 million out of work and on the JobSeeker payment.

“To get Australians back to work, we have to get Australians back to work in a safe economy. We are trying to find what that safe economy looks like, so we can move towards that.”

Nev Power, chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, said some businesses are ready and continuing to operate with reconfigured workplaces.

“Some businesses are in the preparation stage and some need a little more help to get there and that’s where we are working on that at the moment. But it would be fair to say the level of ingenuity and innovation that we have seen has been fantastic.

“Businesses are looking at this as just another business problem and saying how do we get as many people back to work as we possibly can while having those protections in place to reduce the transmission of the virus.

“My message to business is a very, very simple: continue to work with your employees to find ways of configuring your business so you are able to introduce the restrictions on social distancing and hygiene into your normal business activities.

“Have plans in place and be ready as the restrictions change that you can continue to do that as more customers are coming into your business, as there is a higher level of activity and make sure that we continue to contain the virus as the economy starts to expand again.”

Pandemic leave, WHS reforms needed before workers can return: ACTU

Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus said workers need to be kept safe should the economy reopen.

“This means implementing such measures as physical distancing and ensuring workers are supported to get tested if they have symptoms, supported to stay at home if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and supported to stay at home or in medical care if they contact the virus,” she said.

“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 commonsense reforms which will keep working people safe and help prevent the spread of the virus.”

In Australia there have been 6849 confirmed cases and 96 deaths. There are around 1000 active cases in Australia, and over the past week, daily infection rates have remained low.

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