Though Australia has begun easing COVID-19 restrictions as early as mid-May, the work of adapting to the new normal has only just begun for many organisations across the country. This is because, according to a survey conducted by Qualtrics, more than half of Australian people do not feel comfortable about returning to work so soon.

It is a view that is likely to persist despite optimistic numbers and government requests to reopen the economy. Indeed, short of the development and subsequent distribution of a vaccine or cure for the deadly coronavirus, it may prove difficult to alleviate workers’ most immediate concerns related to the pandemic.

Should organisations wish to reopen during these trying times, they must be prepared to implement several measures to assure employees that their health, safety, and welfare are of utmost importance. In addition, these measures are required by Safe Work Australia, the government statutory body tasked with improving Work Health and Safety across the country. To ensure that your business complies with said policies, here are some safety protocols that can help your company cover its bases:

Company Protocols

Safe Work Australia’s National COVID-19 safe workplace principles are a great starting point for any company or organisation preparing to receive employees back into the workplace. They state, chiefly, that all workers have the fundamental right to a healthy and safe working environment. Safe Work Australia also asserts that employers must eliminate worker exposure to COVID-19 or mitigate the risk of exposure for their workers as much as they are able.

For companies, this could mean allowing for flexible work arrangements like working from home in order to minimise a worker’s risk to any exposure to the coronavirus. It could also mean imposing company-wide policies to encourage physical distancing and proper hygiene while at work. Organisations can also protect workers by requiring sick employees to stay at home and making sure that their work facilities are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Additionally, companies will need to change the way that they receive customers, clients, guests, contractors, and others into their workplace. To minimise infection risks and protect others, organisations are encouraged to require everyone to practice proper physical distancing and good hygiene while on work premises. It could also be a good idea to go contactless when receiving deliveries and making payments. Finally, non-essential personnel(such as family members and friends) should be advised to stay away from the workplace entirely.

Workplace Protocols

It is the duty of companies and organisations to maintain the safety of their respective workplaces. This will help to ensure that their work premises do not put others at risk of contracting COVID-19. Safe Work Australia similarly maintains an exhaustive guide on how to clean and disinfect the workplace environment for a number of different industries. This guide is an excellent resource for reopening businesses and can be found on the Safe Work Australia website.

That being said, regular daily cleaning is crucial to maintaining the required standard of disinfection when required. Hence, Safe Work Australia recommends cleaning the workplace at least once per day. However, this should be done more frequently if surfaces become visibly dirty or if the workplace sees a high volume of workers daily. For instance, an office that has employees on shifting schedules should be cleaned between shift changes. It may also be necessary to clean the workplace more frequently if the same pieces of equipment are shared by employees on different shifts.

In addition to keeping the work environment safe and clean, providing facilities for employees to practice good hygiene in the workplace is also under the purview of the employer. Washrooms should be equipped with adequate supplies of soap, water, and paper towels. Hand sanitisers should also be placed strategically throughout the workplace in areas where handwashing may not be possible. Additionally, it may be necessary to impose limits on how many people can use shared facilities (such as restrooms and break rooms) so as to maintain proper physical distancing.

Employee Protocols

Currently, research shows that the most likely method of contracting COVID-19 is by breathing in micro-droplets produced by an infected person’s coughing, sneezing, or exhaling. Given this, the most effective method of protecting oneself from the virus is by maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others wherever possible and to ensure that people who are feeling unwell are informed not to enter the workplace.

Companies can supplement worker efforts to maintain this distance by providing clear visual cues and proper education. Visual cues like prominent signage can also help remind employees of vital information such as the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 as well as proper handwashing technique, among others.

Though by no means comprehensive, we hope that this guide proves useful as Australians shift towards a new normal. Organisations would also do well to keep themselves abreast on this currently developing situation by staying on top of updates from reliable sources.

If you would like support in leading your team during this time and navigating this new landscape and learning the latest protocols, then check out our Leadership Courses which include one on one coaching or tailored programs for your organisation here: LEADERSHIP & COMMUNICATION