Last year presented a significant number of hardships to business’ across Australia, who were faced with challenges regarding redefining how they work, developing innovative ways to provide customers with a pre-COVID-level of service, and ensuring that their employees were provided with safe, supportive work environments. With 2020 finally behind us, many business’ are looking at 2021 as an opportunity to restore some continuity to their operations, and bring things back to some semblance of normality. One of the most crucial steps needed to be undertaken to help get things back to something resembling ‘normal’ is understanding that the COVID-19 vaccinations of the general public will be taking place this year, and employers need to ensure their staff and workplace meet their legal obligations in relation to this.
Safe Work Australia has published some safety guidelines regarding the responsibilities that individual business’ have in ensuring their staff get vaccinated, and they note that all employers have a responsibility to comply with existing OH&S laws, to work towards achieving several OH&S goals, including:
- Working to entirely eliminate the threat of COVID-19 across the workplace, if at all practical. If this goal cannot be practically accomplished, then employers should take steps to ensure the risk of spread and exposure is significantly minimised across their worksite, and that all staff are doing everything they can to help stop the spread.
- Applying all feasible COVID-19 control measures to help stop the spread across the worksite. This includes ensuring staff practice COVID-Safe work behaviour, including social distancing, washing hands for an appropriate time frame, ensuring that staff are well-briefed on their COVID-19 responsibilities and understand that they should stay home if they are unwell, conducting regular hygiene checks and cleaning of the workspace, and requiring staff to log their attendance through a QR Code sign-in sheet.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out nationally this year
The COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Australia earlier this year, and by the end of 2021 the Australian Government aims to have vaccinated the majority of the population. It is important to recognise that getting the vaccination is voluntary, and that the government is encouraging everyone to willingly receive it. To help in this process, employers can encourage their staff to get the vaccine, and provide them with information about this process, and how the employer can help them make the process as easy as possible.
The Australian Government has developed a National Rollout Strategy for the vaccine, which gives vaccination priority to certain groups, such as essential and high-risk workers. Workers of some industries, such as health care workers, may be required to have the vaccination to continue working, while employees from other industries will have a choice as to whether to get vaccinated. However, it is strongly recommended that everyone gets the vaccination, as it will help to keep workplaces safe, minimise the spread, and ensure that staff are free to focus on their duties.
How the vaccinations effect business’ OH&S responsibilities
At this stage, only business’ in certain industries will be required to have staff vaccinated. However, all business’ have a responsibility to minimise the spread and promote safe working conditions, and one way this goal is achieved is through conducting a thorough audit of your business’ existing occupational health and safety practices, identifying potential weak points, and working to safeguard against them, and thus maintain the stability of the operations and the safety of employees.
Business’ can effectively achieve these goals through the implementation of an Occupational Health and Safety Management System, which helps them develop and maintain regulatory compliant work health and safety practices, promote a safe, supportive work environment, and demonstrate to their staff, customers, and regulatory agencies that they have a commitment to safety.
In 2018, the International Organization for Standardization released the ISO 45001 Standards which helps business’ develop an effective Occupational Health and Safety Management System, by providing them with globally recognised health and safety strategies that they can use to audit their existing operations for inefficiencies, work at mitigating the effects of these potential risks, develop a clear paper trail of their existing processes to provide evidence of their commitment to meeting regulations, and overall, develop a safer environment for staff to work in.
These standards provide a holistic approach to effective work health and safety, as they not only address how to develop strong practices to ensure the physical wellbeing of staff, they also help business’ develop strategies to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of their staff, to help prevent potential risk factors such as work-related stress, worry, and burnout.
Anitech will be hosting an informative webinar on How business’ can get the edge by implementing the ISO 45001 Standards on Wednesday, the 3rd of March, at 11am Victorian time. By attending this webinar, companies will be provided with some clear guidance about how to implement or migrate to these standards, how these standards help business’ align their daily practices to their larger operational goals, and further, our specialist consultants will be able to relate some of their real-world experiences in how the implementation of these standards have helped organisations achieve their larger goal of developing compliant occupational health and safety practices of the highest quality. The webinar will be hosted by Anita Patturajan, director of Anitech, and two of Anitech’s OH&S and IMS specialists, Julian and Fadi.
You can RSVP to this webinar by following this link Webinar Registration – Zoom and although attendance is free spots are limited, so the sooner you RSVP, the sooner you can ensure you are guaranteed a spot at this informative hour-long session.
It is clear that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way business’ across Australia operate, and the effects of it will be felt for years to come. By implementing the ISO 45001 Standards business’ are able to develop an effective strategy for achieving their OH&S goals, directly chart their progress, as well as develop clear strategies for ensuring that they remain compliant with existing workplace legislation, when it comes to vaccinations, COVID-Safe workplace practices, and other important OH&S concerns.
It is strongly recommended that business’ act at their earliest convenience in ensuring their OH&S practices are regulatory compliant and effective, so if you would like a head-start on better understanding the scope of benefits these standards can bring to business’, then please give our safety consultants a call today on 1300 802 163, for a short, free consultation. All you have to do is give them a rundown about your business operations, including its industry, size, and type, and they will be able to explain to you some of the unique OH&S challenges it may face, how workplace legislation applies to it, and how these standards can help it achieve its operations goals. Doesn’t this kind of knowledge sound beneficial to your operations?