COVID-19: New National Work Safety Principles
On 24 April 2020, the National Cabinet agreed to a set of National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles designed to manage workplaces during the pandemic and help businesses prepare to resume normal operations within the COVID-19 landscape.
The principles reinforce Safe Work Australia's guidance and intend to provide consistent WHS advice that applies to workers, employers and any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).
The National Cabinet are also looking to develop nationally consistent, industry-specific WHS guidelines around COVID-19 which will be established and endorsed by Safe Work Australia.
The new set of Principles are as follows:
- All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
- The COVID-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to work health and safety as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.
- To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must (in consultation with workers, and their representatives) assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.
- As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.
- Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC), including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.
- Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, consistent with advice from health authorities.
- Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging that individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, a commitment to a national approach is key in order to ensure business and worker confidence. This includes a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by COVID-19.
- Safe Work Australia, through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.
- States and Territories ultimately have the role of providing advice, education, compliance and enforcement of WHS and will leverage the use of the Safe Work Australia central hub in fulfilling their statutory functions.
- The work of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will complement the work of Safe Work Australia, jurisdictions and health authorities to support industries more broadly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic appropriately, effectively and safely.
As restrictions begin to ease around the country, business owners are urged to be flexible in order to adapt to the changes. It is important that employers continue to work with their employees to find ways to configure their business so that they can introduce the restrictions of social distancing and hygiene into normal business activities.
Implementing the above set of principles into your operations will help to facilitate the safest possible return to normal for business owners, workers and customers after the worst of the health crisis has passed.
How Coverforce can help
Our experienced Coverforce Workplace Services (CWS) team can assist your business with embedding safe working processes and the identification of risks and hazards in your workplace. Contact them directly on (02) 9098 5500 to find out more.
Your local Coverforce insurance broker can provide your business with sound risk management advice and quality insurance cover at competitive rates. For personalised advice for your business, you can contact your local Coverforce office or call 1 3000 COVER.
The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.
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