Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing

A safe workplace protects workers from physical and psychological harm, promotes worker health at work and supports the ability of ageing workers and those with ill health and disability to engage in productive work with the opportunity to thrive in their roles.

The benefits of a healthy workplace

Good work is good for everyone. Whilst there is a complex relationship between health, safety and work, when people are working, they are generally healthier and happier. Undertaking work activities that are healthy, safe and well-designed is generally good for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Conversely, the workplace also has the potential to harm workers, through physical or psychological injuries and illnesses. This can be mitigated through hazard assessment and effective risk management to address both the risks to health and safety, early intervention for effective return to work programs and the long-term health of workers. Overall, the benefits of good work far outweigh the risks.

Return on Investment

Investing in health and wellbeing makes good business sense. Organisations which make the decision to invest in health and wellbeing initiatives see benefits that are broader than the financial gains from reducing absenteeism, accidents and injuries. Mental health and wellbeing programs that address the health risks of workers within the organisation lead to increased staff engagement, reduced turnover and higher productivity levels.

The workplace and its health and wellbeing approach has a critical role to play in:

  • preventing illness and injury, by eliminating or minimising exposure to hazards or risks, and the promotion of health and wellbeing;
  • intervening early for those who are injured, unwell or have developed a physical or psychological health condition to help them to participate in work to support their health or assist their recovery back to work;
  • supporting those with injury or illness can allow them to continue working.

The workplace needs to be resourced to reduce the rising prevalence of lifestyle related chronic disease by positively influencing the health and wellbeing of its workers.

Resources

These resources provide useful guidance for employers and workers on how to address health and safety risks and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This information can be used for policy development, training and development and provides the evidence needed for strategic health and safety development work.

On 28 July 2020, the Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations 2020 (Regulations) were passed and are applicable until 28 July 2021.

 

The Regulations provide that employers and self-employed persons, with management or control of a workplace, must notify WorkSafe if they become aware that:

 

  • a person (i.e. an employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person) has received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis; and
  • the person has attended the workplace with the relevant infection period.

Notification must be as follows:

 

  • immediately notify WorkSafe by telephone.
  • within 48 hours of the telephone notification, notify WorkSafe in writing.

Based on the definitions in the Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004:

 

  • 'confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis' means a positive result for a person who has undergone a diagnostic procedure for COVID-19.
  • infectious period' will be the date, being 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis (whichever comes first), until the date on which the person receives a clearance from isolation from the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • management or control', which is not a defined term, includes any extent to which an employer has control or management over a workplace (e.g. an employee working from home is still a workplace over which an employer has some management or control).
  • ‘self-employed person' means a person, other than an employer, who works for gain or reward otherwise than under a contract of employment or training.
  • 'workplace' means a place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work.

 

It is an indictable offence to fail to comply with the Regulations. A body corporate employer (which includes Victorian Public Service employers) will face fines of up to 1200 penalty units per offence (or $198,264) and in the case of a natural person, 240 penalty units per offence ($39,652.80).

 

Guidance on compliance with the Regulations can be found at: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/report-confirmed-covid-19-diagnosis

Business Victoria has useful guidance on how to create a COVID-Safe workplace Safety Plan with fact sheets for Employers and Workers on key information. COVID-19 workplace attendance registers and permitted worker permit templates are available here.

Department of Health and Human Services has a dedicated Coronavirus hub with support, tools and information available which is updated daily. A dedicated coronavirus hotline has been set up and open 24 hours 7 days a week 1800 675 398. 

SafeWork Australia has a COVID-19 resource toolkit for workplaces which includes a range of resources for organisations to use and download and display at their workplace, including checklists, infographics, fact sheets and posters on hand washing, hygiene and physical distancing.

WorkSafe Victoria has the latest information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventing exposure in the workplace.

The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 have caused significant changes and to the way in which we live and work.  These changes include adjustments to our work life balance and working in new and different ways. 

 

Understanding how to manage the safety responsibilities at your workplace can provide new ways of working and managing this during this time of uncertainty can be an ongoing challenge.



If you are feeling impacted but don’t know where to start looking for support, the Centre has collated resources that might help. You can also get in touch with us if you need further advice or support.

 

Feel free to contact us here.

Managing fatigue safely at work

Key tips for employers to reduce the risks of workplace fatigue for workers

It is important for leaders who manage frontline workers to ensure their workers are working safely, free from the risk of fatigue and exhaustion, particularly during COVID-19.

These tips include:

  • Recognise that these are potentially stressful and unusual circumstances and risk for fatigue may be increased due to additional workloads or added responsibilities during COVID-19.
  • Create a culture of safety with clear coordination and communication between management and workers. This can include establishing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan or strategies for fatigue mitigation on the job. Share and ensure that employees understand the processes.
  • Spot the signs and symptoms of fatigue (e.g., yawning, difficulty keeping eyes open, inability to concentrate) in yourself and your employees and take steps to mitigate fatigue-related injury or error.
  • The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a short survey that can be posted in a common area for workers to quickly rate their fatigue.
  • Create a procedure that does not punish workers for reporting when they, or their co-workers, are too fatigued to work safely. Build it into the work and team culture as an example of how management and frontline workers can support each other.
    • Develop processes to relieve a worker from their duties if they are too fatigued to work safely;
    • If available, and agreeable with workers, consider assigning workers who are just starting their shifts onto safety-critical tasks;
    • If possible, rotate workers or groups of workers through tasks that are repetitive and/or strenuous. Tools or workstations that are unavoidably shared need to be properly cleaned and disinfected between usage;
    • If possible, schedule physically and mentally demanding workloads and monotonous work in shorter shifts and/or during day shifts;
  • Provide resources, guidance and information for frontline workers on the need for sleep hygiene and consequences of sleep deprivation and resources to assist workers manage fatigue.
  • Allow your employees enough time to organise their working from home or family obligations for sufficient rest and recovery.
    • Schedule at least 11 hours off in-between shifts (each 24-hour period), and one full day of rest per seven days for adequate sleep and recovery.
    • Avoid penalising those who may have restricted availability to work extra shifts/longer hours (e.g., caring for dependents).
  • If rotating shift work is needed, use forward rotations (day to evening to night) and provide frontline workers with sufficient notice when scheduling, particularly if there is a shift change.
  • When scheduling night shifts, ensure there is more than 1 person on night shift or arrange for floating support or at least 2 people on night shifts.
  • Avoid scheduling workers for more than 12 hours, if possible.
  • Formalize and encourage regularly scheduled breaks in clean and safe areas where social distancing can be maintained. Recognize the need for additional time for increased hand hygiene and putting on and taking off required personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Provide alternative transportation to and from work and mandatory paid rest time prior to driving commutes after work, when possible.
    • Consider arranging for nearby offsite housing for those working extended shifts and at high risk for COVID-19, such as frontline workers in residential care.

Resources and Guidance

  • The Black Dog Institute has developed a Sleep, fatigue and stress in health care workers fact sheet as part of their COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing resources which covers why sleep is important, tips for sleeping well with online tools and resources available.
  • SafeWork Australia has developed practical guidance material on how to manage fatigue at work to ensure it does not contribute to health and safety risks in the workplace.
  • WorkSafe Victoria has developed new guidance on preventing and managing increased risk due to employee fatigue during COVID-19 which is useful for both workers and employers.
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale Questionnaire -  The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) is a scale intended to measure daytime sleepiness that is measured by use of a very short questionnaire. This can be helpful in diagnosing sleep disorders. It was introduced in 1991 by Dr Murray Johns of Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has developed expert advice, information and resources about Coronavirus (COVID-19). DHHS has also developed Infection Control training which you can register to access their e-learning modules and training resources at your convenience.

 

The Department of Health and Human Services has also developed tailored COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control information for Residential Care Facilities.

 

WorkSafe Victoria has developed evidence-based Safety Alert for the Prevention and Management to the exposure to COVID-19 for the healthcare and social assistance industry.

 

The Centre has developed an Infection Control - Safe Care Info Sheet to support workers to keep themselves and others safe.

 

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed infection prevention control area resources.

 

Three posters ‘Caring for facial skin when wearing a face mask’ posters developed by the Department of Health and Human Services are available. These are to accompany the ‘Factsheet: Extended P2/N95 respirator and eye protection use – preventing facial injury during coronavirus’ guidance. The posters are titled:

  • ‘Caring for facial skin when wearing a surgical face mask’
  • ‘Caring for facial skin when wearing a P2/N95 respirator and eye protection’
  • ‘Caring for facial skin Applying dressings under PPE’

  • Beyond Blue has helpful tips and information on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Black Dog Institute also provides comprehensive advice on managing anxiety and wellbeing and access to online support. 
  • Life In Mind and the National Mental Health Commission has consolidated mental health resources and information on a dedicated webpage.   
  • MindSpot, a government-funded online service, has information on maintaining mental and physical wellbeing during the pandemic. 
  • SANE has lived experience forums with features on COVID-19. 
  • Superfriend provides tips to help you maintain mental wellbeing, and offers a COVID-19 support kit. 
  • World Health Organisation has developed Social Stigma Guidelines for safe reporting on COVID-19, which may be helpful in workplace communications.

All Victorian workers are entitled to a healthy and safe workplace and to compensation and rehabilitation if they are injured at work.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 outlines the Employer’s legal duty to provide a safe working environment for all employees. 

Residential carers are exposed to occupational violence and aggression as part of their work.  The Centre is working in collaboration with WorkSafe, the Australian Services Union and the Department of Health and Human Services to address this.

Employer Responsibilities

Over the next three years, WorkSafe has included the out of home sector as part of their new Health Care and Social Assistance Industry Strategy 2020-23 which includes improving incident system reporting for the OOHC sector and creating safer workplaces for everyone. The Centre supports WorkSafe’s strategy and approach.

Key Messages For Leaders 

Prevention and management of violence and aggression requires active engagement from every level of the organisation.  Violence and aggression is not ‘part of the job’ for any employee, even when it’s committed by people whose clinical condition may be affecting their judgement. You can take steps to prevent or minimise an incident.

Organisation leaders, supervisors and team leaders play a pivotal role in developing a positive safety culture where priority is placed on the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees and patients.  Senior Leaders should demonstrate a commitment to promoting a culture where violence and aggression is not accepted as ‘part of the job’.   

Senior Leaders can use this as a guide to understand what this might look like:

  • Set health and safety objectives and accountabilities with the OHS Committee in consultation with Health and Safety Representatives and employees
  • ensure effective health and safety systems are in place to identify and control risk
  • support employee development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and including crisis intervention management through training and support
  • allocate resources to prevention and management
  • develop and promoting health and safety policy and key initiatives
  • have clear policies and procedures for reporting
  • encourage reporting and acting on these reports
  • investigate incidents and reviewing risk control measures
  • consult and support employees
  • monitor and report on performance outcomes; acting on issues and opportunities, and
  • ask questions about violence and aggression prevention systems in your workplace

Direct Line Managers, Supervisors and Team Leaders should:

  • undertake regular risk assessments to identify violence and aggression risks in your area
  • implement risk controls to eliminate or reduce these risks
  • engage the Health and Safety Representatives when an issue is identified
  • encourage reporting and act on these reports
  • investigate incidents and review existing controls
  • support employee’s development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and management
  • allocate resources to prevention and management
  • consult and support employees
  • promote a zero-harm tolerance culture
  • ask for help if you need it

Encourage employees to report incidents of violence and aggression:

  • Employees who have been affected by a violent or aggressive incident in the workplace may want to keep working with the child and dismiss their own wellbeing;
  • It is critical to engage your employees, so they know:
  • why they need to report incidents
  • the reporting policies and procedures at their workplace
  • they will be supported when they report
  • what will happen after they report, and the feedback they can expect to receive, and
  • their reporting has contributed to positive changes to reduce future risks.

Employee Responsibilities

As an employee, you are also responsible for health and safety at work. Everyone has a role to play in keeping people safe at work and it starts with knowing what our responsibilities are. 

Whilst working, you must take care for other’s health and safety who can be affected by what you do or don’t do. 

WorkSafe Victoria has outlined key responsibilities for employees which can be found on their website.  It’s important that you know what your responsibilities are and also how it affects the people you work with. More information regarding your legal duties can be found here.

Resources, support tools and guidance  

There are support tools and resources available online via WorkSafe Victoria’s website for Community Service and Support Organisations which can be found here.

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed a Risk Assessment Checklist and PPE Guidance.

 

Please be advised: It is now a requirement for any person delivering community services that you wear a face mask at work. This requirement applies to workers throughout Victoria (regional and metropolitan areas).

 

For those in need of face masks to continue providing vital services to the community, please complete the request for PPE form online. Demand for PPE is very high and all requests will be triaged with priority given to facilities and programs where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19.

 

There are FAQs for community services workers about wearing face coverings on the department’s coronavirus website. An updated version of this document will be available shortly.

 

Useful links:

The department regularly updates information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and we ask you to continue to check the coronavirus website for all up-to-date information.

 

SafeWork Australia has developed a tutorial to teach people how to apply PPE effectively and safely. Watch their PPE video tutorial for instructions on how to use PPE. SafeWork Australia recommends that PPE should only be used:

    • as a last resort
    • as an interim measure
    • as a back-up

PPE works best in the workplace when it is used to supplement higher-level control measures or when no other safety measures are available. Risk assessments should be undertaken to see what other controls can and should be used. SafeWork Australia provides information and resources on how to undertake a risk assessment to see what other controls can and should be used.

 

Please note: If you are currently in a Metropolitan Melbourne or the Mitchell Shire masks must be worn at all times, please ensure you follow the Government's instructions on the use of PPE.   

If you have any questions about how to implement this guidance or resources within your organisation, please contact us for more information.

The Centre is following advice from the federal and state governments in relation to COVID-19 to protect people most at risk and slow the rate of community transmission.

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