The national work health and safety policy body has released new advice  by industry to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission in the workplace.

The guides launched by Safe Work Australia on Tuesday provide detailed guidance for businesses and workers on how to stay safe from coronavirus.

They include information on workers’ rights, responsibilities under workplace health and safety laws, cleaning, and mental health.

Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter said it was essential to have access to accurate and updated information about how to stay safe in the workplace as restrictions begin to ease.

“The SWA website brings together all the information businesses and workers need into one centralised hub, providing users with fast and easy access to detailed guidance that is directly relevant to their specific industry,” Mr Porter said.

Christian Porter

“That includes guidance about physical distancing, personal protective equipment, worksite cleaning, 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,” Mr Porter said.

The SWA website will be regularly updated with new guidance as restrictions are eased.

Workplace health and safety expert Alastair Brooke said it was important aged care providers followed the SWA guidance to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents and staff.

“It’s dangerous as you may be exposing workers, clients and the public to harm and your insurance won’t cover you for non-compliance,” Mr Brooke told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“In addition, the reputational damage and cost the business will incur if declared unsafe may be crippling,” said Mr Brooke, founder and director of workplace health safety technology start-up Safety Evolved.

Safety Evolved helps to automate health and safety systems to drive better outcomes through early intervention of chronic conditions and streamlined and paperless handling of incidents, investigations and claims.

Alastair Brooke

Care providers should follow principles and guidelines from SWA, the Department of Health and any additional measures directed by state regulators to ensure workplaces are COVID-19 safe, he said.

Providers should also collect evidence to show compliance, Mr Brooke said.

“Because if something goes horribly wrong and you can’t show the evidence you have complied and this includes things such as policies, procedures, inspections, audits and WHS meeting minutes, then you will be non-compliant,” Mr Brooke said.

Technology can help improve safety

Mr Brooke said technology played a key role in improving safe work outcomes for aged care providers.

“Most businesses have WHS systems in place that have been pretty stable for the past 20 years and they are largely manual, paper based or run off of a bunch of spreadsheets, siloed and not very proactive,” Mr Brooke said.

Many need to change their WHS practices to be faster, better, cheaper and safer, he said.

“The only way businesses can do this is by leveraging digital tools and techniques that automate a lot of the duplicated and manually intensive processes and capture information and provide reporting to provide targeted interventions that make a difference,” he said.

Access Safe Work Australia’s COVID-19 information for aged care workplaces here.

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