Who is an officer?
Generally, you will be an officer if you are:
- the owner or operator of a small business
- make, or participate in making, big decisions about all or part of your business, or
- have the capacity to significantly affect your business’ financial standing.
If you are an ‘officer’ in your business, you have additional responsibilities in relation to work health and safety (WHS) in your workplace, including in relation to COVID-19.
What does an officer need to do?
If you are an officer you need to exercise ‘due diligence’ to ensure that your employees comply with their duties and obligations.
In relation to COVID-19, due diligence means you must:
- Acquire and keep your knowledge of the COVID-19 situation up-to-date.
- Follow advice from authoritative sources such as the Australian Government Department of Health and check daily for any updates to safety advice. If the advice is relevant to your workplace, quickly take steps to help your employer implement it in your workplace.
- Ensure you understand your business and its WHS hazards and risks, including how COVID-19 could affect your workplace and workers.
- Make sure your workplace is properly resourced to manage WHS risks during the COVID-19 outbreak, and check that the resources are being used.
- Review your businesses policies, procedures and reporting processes to ensure they address the risks of COVID-19. Update these materials if necessary.
- Ensure that new information, policies, procedures and processes about COVID-19 are communicated clearly to workers and that processes are being followed.
- Provide instruction and training to workers on things they need to do to help manage the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the workplace.
How to meet your duty as an officer during and after COVID-19
Understand the risks of COVID-19 and how it affects your business
As an officer, you must keep up to date on the COVID-19 situation and be aware of the hazards and risks affecting your workplace from COVID-19. Do this by:
- staying up-to-date on information provided by the Australian Government and your WHS regulator about the best ways to eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19
- regularly consulting with workers and their health and safety representatives on the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace and ideas for eliminating or minimising them, and
- regularly inspecting the workplace to observe how and if the control measures in place are being applied.
Ensure policies and procedures are in place and being followed
You must ensure that your employer has processes and procedures in place to manage WHS risks arising from COVID-19 and post the crisis. You also need to ensure those processes and procedures are being followed.
Relevant processes and procedures include: Filling out risk assessment templates for hazards arising from COVID-19. Where you have risk assessments in place, review them to ensure they are being filled out correctly and are up-to-date.
Having procedures for consulting with workers (see the model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination)
Developing a process for how the business will respond if there is a case of COVID-19 in your workplace (see the what to do if a workers has COVID-19 infographic)
Developing or updating a policy for working from home arrangements (if necessary), including information on how to set up a safe home work space (see Anitech’s working from home and infectious disease checklist)
Ensure the business is properly resourced to manage the risk of COVID-19
You need to ensure the business is resourced properly to manage WHS risks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, relevant resourcing considerations include:
- Whether the workplace facilities are managed and stocked to keep workers safe, e.g. bathrooms and common areas are kept clean and there is ample hand wash and hand sanitiser around the workplace.
- How you will ensure the workplace operates effectively while also maintaining physical distancing requirements, e.g. staggering worker start times, or allowing some workers to work at home.
- How you will approach cleaning throughout the day, e.g. providing training and cleaning products to workers to clean throughout the day or increasing the cleaning requirements at the end of the work day.
- If you need to restructure the workplace or equipment to maintain safety, e.g. removing furniture to provide more space, putting up barriers between staff and customers.