We are now seeing success across the country to flatten the curve and reduce the COVID-19 impact. This is a promising sign as many businesses have had to significantly adapt to the changed circumstances brought on by COVID-19.
With the release of the national roadmap, the next crucial step is to plan for how your business can safely bounce back as quickly as possible.
Here are five steps to prepare your business as we open up the economy for business.
STEP 1: FOLLOW THE LATEST CORONAVIRUS UPDATES
The government released a three-step roadmap with a plan to re-open business doors and transition workers back to the workplace. States and territories will move at different times based on local conditions, which is why it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest news.
Until there is further notice, it is encouraged for employees ‘to work from home if it works for you and your employer’. It is a challenging time for many as both employers and employees have had to rapidly shift their operations almost overnight. Many have had to suddenly homeschool while trying to balance their work commitments. It is important to be understanding and consider each employee and their individual personal circumstances (such as carer responsibilities) and what would work for both parties. Check out our free Working From Home Toolkit for more resources.
STEP 2: PREPARE A COVIDSAFE PLAN
Managing the risk of contracting COVID-19 needs to be the number one priority – and the key focus of a COVIDSafe plan. That risk arises from exposure to colleagues or from interactions with contractors, customers, clients, suppliers and members of the public.
Businesses should be working now on developing COVIDSafe plans to transition back to the workplace. Those plans need to assess the unique risks posed to employees and work environment and identify those workers at greatest risk due to their duties or being in a vulnerable worker category. The plans should clearly identify how the risks of exposure of workers to COVID-19 arise, their likelihood, the control measures for dealing with those risks, and how the measures will be reviewed and adjusted either periodically or by a trigger event.
To help make the planning process easier, the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has created an online planning tool as a starting point to help keep employees, customers and the community safe as they re-open or increase their activities in the weeks and months ahead.
The NCCC says the tool complements the Safe Work Australia online hub, which continues to be a valuable source of information for businesses to understand their OHS obligations. This valuable resource includes industry-specific guidance, as well as links to the relevant work health and safety authority in your jurisdiction.
The online planning exercise should take roughly 30-minutes and will give businesses a clear idea about what they will do to keep people safe, how to get their business back up and running and how they might adapt their operating model.
What a good COVIDSafe plan should include:
workplace cleaning protocols
hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE)
physical distancing measures
handwashing and hygiene protocols
the staging of common areas such as meeting rooms, getting into elevators and kitchen areas.
An important aspect of these plans will be emergency management or ‘pandemic planning’ to deal with any diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace or managing a worker who has been in contact with a confirmed case.
The serious consequences of the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, including where workers are undiagnosed, has been demonstrated by recent workplace outbreaks.
Preventing the spread and acting decisively when a case is detected will be critical – for reasons of work health and safety, public health and business reputation. A pandemic plan could provide for a declaration by employees about their health and recent contact, isolation for the worker and their co-workers, cleaning and disinfecting affected work areas, and steps for self-isolation and medical clearance before workers return to the workplace. Business continuity planning will also be important.
It goes without saying, any plans should be revisited frequently, particularly as restrictions and conditions change.