COVID-19 safety plan and why you need oneIndustry Best Practice
Angela Harders is a Work Health & Safety expert with more than 15 years experience working in safety.
When the pandemic broke out earlier this year the initial reaction was do whatever it takes to get through this challenging time. Fast forward six months, we now accept that things have changed and are never going to be the same.
For those of us working in Agriculture, we know just how important it is to safeguard the industry that feeds and supports our country – it’s for this reason that we must ensure the changes we implement are to protect it for the long term.
Do your workers know who to ask or what to do in relation to COVID-19? You may have heard of the term COVID Marshal over the last few months, whilst this is not a requirement for the Agricultural industry the concept is worth mentioning.
This concept designates an individual within the workplace as a contact who can provide or source more information relating to COVID. This dedicated contact takes responsibility for implementing and monitoring any COVID safety and management plans.
If you are still pulling information together or feel a bit overwhelmed when creating your safety plan, consider some of the information below as a starting point:
When it comes to communication between yourself and your workers, have you made them aware of COVID-19 health advice, do they know when to get tested, what are the social distancing requirements, and do they have access to your hygiene policy?
Training should be provided on the correct use and disposal of face covering and PPE. Can your workers identify face coverings and PPE as well as describe when and how they need to be worn?
Reinforcing the importance of not attending work if unwell
As part of your plan, establish a system to screen workers and visitors before they access your workplace. This will form part of your visitor register in case details are required for contract tracing. A range of safety management focused organisations have turned their attention to COVID, including Safe Ag Systems™. With many of these products you can induct workers and visitors prior to their arrival onsite, a process which should be used to communicate information regarding COVID-19.
If your workers are unwell, how do you encourage them not to come to work? Make them aware of their leave entitlements if they are sick or required to self-isolate.
Workers must not attend their workplace if they are being tested for coronavirus and must notify employers if they are a positive case.
Managing risk in the workplace
As part of your COVID Safety Plan, you need to establish a system for your workers to ensure they are not working across multiple sites, this includes controlling the number of workers in the relevant areas. Consider adjusting the layout of your work area or alignment of workstations so that they do not face each other.
Another element of risk are visitors to your workplace, this could include delivery drivers, vets and agronomists. It is essential these visitors maintain 1.5m physical distance where possible.
Finally, review your communication protocols to help reduce face to face interactions where possible.
Cleaning and disinfecting
As part of mitigating the spread of coronavirus, consider reducing the number of high-touch surfaces within your workplace, leave doors open, eliminate shared pens or tools. If tools need to be shared ensure that they are cleaned and disinfected after every use.
A simple and quick change you can introduce into your workplace is to increase your cleaning schedule for high traffic zones to at least and high-touch surfaces up to several times a day. Additionally, supplying alcohol-based sanitizer for workers and guests promotes best practice.
If your business accommodates seasonal workers, resources from the relevant state Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture (see links at bottom) should be reviewed. The appropriateness of accommodation facilities can also be cross-checked with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Hotels and Accommodation.
If the worst is to happen and there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace, you need to be prepared.
Your first step is to update your business continuity plan. If an outbreak occurs, this potentially means a closure of your workplace. Part of this measure would include preparing to undertake a deep clean and disinfection of your business premises.
Since you have been keeping a register of workers and visitors for tracing purposes, identifying contacts should be easy. You will also need to prepare how you will notify workers and site visitors if there is a confirmed case.
Lastly, you should prepare for how you will manage a suspected or confirmed case if it occurs during work hours. Do you know who to notify? What details do you need? How quickly do you need to act? Safe Work Australia has produced an incident notification factsheet which outlines the process you need to adhere to per state.
Each state and territory have their own rules and regulations when it comes to Coronavirus, so it is best to check local requirements when creating your plan. Your COVID Safety Plan should also be reviewed and updated based on changing advice from authorities: