Male and female office workers in a meeting.

Protecting your business and people from COVID-19 – beyond the basics

While South Australia has so far seen minimal health impact from the Delta variant, a quick look interstate has experts predicting it’s only a matter of time before SA experiences an outbreak.

The anticipation of border openings and increased travel has many preparing for a significant increase in case numbers.

Workplaces play an important role in the prevention of harm to their people and, by extension, the broader community. They are also responsible by law to keep people safe from COVID-19 at work.

Because of how infectious the Delta variant is, businesses need to take extra care until SA reaches its vaccination targets. One positive case in your workplace could send your entire workforce into quarantine, or worse, become infected. This could leave you financially vulnerable with your business unable to operate.

We are at an important turning point where businesses, health authorities and the community can work together to minimise the potential impact. The support of all SA employers is key.

Assess the risks in your workplace

Some things to consider when assessing the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace include:

  • how workers travel to work, including during travel restrictions
  • where workers work, such as remotely, alone or in smaller groups
  • workers with vulnerability to COVID-19 (e.g. co-morbidity)
  • rates of COVID-19 in the surrounding community
  • interactions with customers and contractors and their risk level (e.g. interstate transport, retail)
  • suitability of workstations and equipment, such as distance between workstations and equipment used when working from home
  • regularity of cleaning and sanitising, including eating and drinking stations.

Level up: Preventing harm beyond public health directions

Public health directions and proper hygiene are a good starting point to help protect people from COVID-19 in the workplace, but with so much on the line for businesses and the infectiousness of the Delta variant, more needs to be done.

Some extra things workplaces can do on top of QR codes and social distancing include:

  • providing additional protection and flexibility to people who are vulnerable to COVID-19
  • having a COVID-19 management plan in place
  • having staff, especially customer-facing, complete the Government COVID-19 training
  • encourage vaccination and provide flexibility for people to get vaccinated
  • communicate clearly and regularly with staff, for example, relaying new exposure sites from SA Health
  • engage your staff to understand the risks in your workplace, possible controls, hygiene and vaccination
  • keep a thorough record of all visitors and freight
  • consider supporting casual workers or those without sick leave to support them to stay at home when unwell.

Being an advocate to your people

Now is the time to show leadership as a socially responsible business. Having good vaccination rates in your business not only helps to minimise harm to your people but it also provides a pathway for your business out of the pandemic.

Being an advocate for vaccination can include:

  • allowing staff the flexibility to attend appointments
  • clearly communicating your business’s position on vaccination to staff
  • correcting myths and mistruths around vaccination in the workplace.

Businesses should keep in mind that some staff may have a genuine reason for not getting vaccinated.

Supporting your people

Maintain empathy for the challenges people are experiencing during the pandemic. Businesses are also responsible for ensuring people are psychologically safe at work. Some risks to mental health include:

  • changes to work demands
  • changes to how and where people work
  • increased customer aggression and violence
  • social isolation (from either colleagues and/or friends and family)
  • poor communication and change management
  • distress and COVID fatigue.

More information

Safe Work Australia are currently developing a Code of Practice for COVID-19. This is anticipated to be available in the near future and you are encouraged to monitor www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au for updates and more information for your industry.

Businesses may find the Australian Chamber of Commerce's Employer Vaccine Guide useful.

For more information on vaccination, visit the SA Health website.