It’s official – the Queensland borders are opening on 13 December 2021 – but what will this actually mean for local businesses and how they operate?
More specifically, what do you need to consider and prepare for knowing Queensland case numbers will rise?
As small business owners, we have a duty of care to our workforce, customers and suppliers. So, now is the time to establish your workplace protocols as we head into 2022.
To help make this easier, in this blog you’ll find a roadmap and resources including:
- Refresher on your workplace health and safety obligations
- Safe Work Australia’s 3 Step plan of attack
- PDF templates and prompts for consulting with your team
And remember, this is just one way you can dial your up your employee engagement and internal marketing to ensure you have a workplace culture that helps retain and attract great staff!
13 December 2021 – A Much Anticipated Date
While Queensland has been very fortunate compared to other Australian states and other countries to have been largely unaffected by the virus. Predictions are that once our borders have been reopened, Queensland case numbers will rise, and our safe “COVID bubble” will no longer exist.
A Plan of Attack for Queensland Businesses
WorkSafe Qld advises that all businesses implement a COVID Safe Plan to make the transition as easy as possible. The plan should outline procedures and measures to keep workers and customers safe and assist your business to be compliant.
This will also reduce the likelihood of a business being shut down for deep cleaning or needing to stand down staff if Queensland Health should identify them as an exposure site.
Download editable PDF template here: Work health and safety plan for COVID-19
Workplace Health and Safety
It is a requirement of Workplace Health and Safety laws that yourself, your workers and any others in your workplace are kept safe at all times.
Safe Work Australia suggests a helpful 3 Step Plan of attack. It has a great Small Business Planning tool that you can use to plan, prepare and operate during COVID-19. You can find the tool HERE.
In a nutshell, the three suggested steps are:
Step 1 – Health Advice. Begin by following all current public health directions.
Step 2 – Take a health and safety risk audit of your business. This is a great opportunity to identify what could go wrong and assess whether you have introduced measures to help keep people safe. You can find a comprehensive list of questions to consider from Safe Work on their Small Business Planning Tool website.
Helpful prompts include:
- Have I done everything I reasonably can to keep people (workers, customers, visitors and myself) at my workplace physically and psychologically safe during the pandemic?
- Have I consulted with my workers about the risks (new and existing) and how we can address them?
- Have I talked to the other businesses I work with or share a premises with?
- Does everyone know what to do if they become unwell (e.g. when to stay away from the workplace) or where to get help when they are having problems (e.g. mental health)?
- How have I kept myself, workers and customers safe in the past? And how has COVID-19 changed that (Are there any other new or changed risks I need to consider)?
- Have I trained my workers on new processes (for meetings, working from home) and equipment?
Step 3 – Monitor and review. Monitor the evolving directions and public health advice to ensure that your plan is current at all times. Check for new risks in your workplace regularly.
Changing Risk Factors – More Than Just COVID Itself
It is important to be aware that risk factors may change due to your workplace adaptations to the regulations.
Safety in the workplace is not just about physical hazards. Employers should prioritise and monitor mental health and ergonomics support, especially with so many people now working from home environments, where they may feel more isolated.
Remember, internal communication to your team is equally important as any marketing to external parties such as customers and suppliers.
You have a responsibility to keep your staff informed at all times of your policies and your obligations to them and theirs to you.
You have a legal and ethical obligation to your workers to provide clear direction about expectations during their employment, and this, of course, applies to COVID-19 safe work requirements.
Always ensure that your staff know when to work from home/stay at home, the procedure for when they fall ill, how to monitor symptoms and expectations for communication to their supervisors.
Also, consulting with your workers and asking for their input/feedback on important issues allows them to be a part of the decision-making processes – another legal requirement for Employers.
Protect Your Business and Your Staff
We also published this article with a comprehensive list of online resources that businesses can access to keep up to date with regulations and implement procedures to do your park in keeping your workforce and customers safe.
Practical considerations such as hand sanitising, signage, mask-wearing, social distancing and capacity restrictions are specific to each business. Further research should ensure that you have fulfilled your duty of care to the people at your premises.
To support your additional research, we recommend that you visit THIS PAGE on the Business Queensland website, where you can access many more resources, including Government endorsed fact sheets, posters and printable collateral to use in your everyday operations.