New guidance for Heath and Safety Representatives and union delegates released by the ACTU outlines the changes that will be necessary in all Australian workplaces as lockdowns ease and more people return to work.
Reducing transmission of the virus in workplaces is essential to stop the spread, prevent further outbreaks and avoid the hospital system being overwhelmed.
The materials can be found here.
The changes are focussed around two central elements – ventilation and social distancing.
Good ventilation in workplaces is essential to stopping the spread of the virus. Where possible workplaces should open windows or doors, use air-conditioning units to pump fresh air into buildings and use air purifiers to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.
The materials being distributed to HSRs and delegates also make it clear that in most cases the layout of a workplace or the way work is done will need to be altered to reduce the amount of time people spend in close proximity, especially inside enclosed spaces.
Unions stand ready to work with employers to find solutions to the often complex problems posed by the virus, and to ensure that none of these changes create other, unintended workplace health and safety risks.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
“In order to open up and return to work safely we have to make sure that every workplace is as safe as we can make it.
“To keep people safe, avoid our health system being overwhelmed and being plunged back into lockdown we have to make sure that every workplace is as safe as possible.
“Workers have the right to be safe in their workplace, and this extends to being protected from exposure to COVID-19. Employers are required by law to identify COVID-19 risks in the workplace and consult workers about their plan to protect them.
“Allowing businesses to reopen and bring workers back into workplaces cannot come at the expense of the health and safety of working people.
“Vaccination is the best defence, but it can’t do the job on its own. To keep transmission out of workplaces ventilation and social distancing are also needed. Employers and workers need to work together to ensure all that can be done is put in place when workplaces reopen.”