On 24 April, as part of a meeting of the National Cabinet regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the ‘National COVID-19 safe workplace principles’ were agreed on. These 10 principles recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and that all actions in respect of it should be founded in expert health advice. The 10 principles operate subject to the measures agreed and implemented by governments through the National Cabinet process.
“National Cabinet agreed to develop nationally consistent, industry-specific work health and safety guidance on COVID-19, accessible via a central hub provided by Safe Work Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “The guidance will be developed and endorsed through Safe Work Australia, working with its members (the Commonwealth, states and territories, employer groups, and unions). The guidance will be housed on a revamped Safe Work Australia website. Australian workplaces will be able to use this central hub of WHS guidance and tools to help manage health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.”
On 1 May, Safe Work Australia (SWA) launched its central information hub for work health and safety. “Safe Work Australia has produced a suite of work health and safety (WHS) guidance and tools to help workplaces manage the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19,” Michelle Baxter, SWA Chief Executive Officer, said. “This guidance gives effect to Principle 8 of the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles that were agreed to by the National Cabinet, and ensures there is nationally consistent and industry-specific information to support workplaces to manage the risk of COVID-19.”
The central information hub is designed to provide “businesses and workers with simple access to guidance that is directly relevant to their specific industry”, Baxter said. “It includes guidance on physical distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, 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.
“It is imperative that businesses and workers have information on how to keep their workplaces as safe as they can be. Without this information, there is a risk that businesses do not do enough to address COVID-19 in their workplace, thereby exposing workers and others to harm,” Baxter added.
Through the hub, users can filter content via a new dropdown menu where tailored information and resources can be found. There are currently 23 industries to choose from through the hub, together with more general industry information that can be used by those whose industry is not listed. There is also a search bar that can be used to find specific COVID-19 WHS content within the hub. SWA intends to add further information in the future, and users can subscribe here to be informed of updates.
“A significant amount of work has gone into producing this guidance in a very short period of time,” Baxter said. “I am very proud that the Safe Work Australia Agency, with its members, has produced this important information to help Australian workplaces manage the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19. COVID-19 work remains a priority for Safe Work Australia and new information and guidance will continue to be developed and the website updated as the COVID-19 situation evolves.”
For the latest information on Australia’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19, visit www.australia.gov.au.
Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/georgejmclittle