Workplace health and safety

Here you will find advice on how to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace and help stop the spread.

All employers are also encouraged to consider alternative ways of delivering their business practices and services, such as switching to online ordering, payment and delivery. If it is not possible to work from home or redesign practices, it is vital that no worker comes to work if they have any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath. If unwell, workers should contact their primary health care provider, who can liaise with the local public health authority to determine when it is safe for them to return to work.

To keep workers safe and limit the spread of COVID-19, every employer should do the following at their workplace:

  • allow workers to work from home, where possible
  • ensure physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people
  • encourage all workers to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and to practise good hygiene
  • be aware of how to spot COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) and make sure workers do not come to work if they are unwell
  • make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned and disinfected
  • have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread.

If you have a work health and safety compliant or want to raise issue, please call WorkSafe ACT on (02) 6207 3000. For more information, you can also visit the WorkSafe ACT COVID -19 web pages.

You can also access translated information about work health and safety and COVID-19 in other languages.

Statement of regulatory intent

WorkSafe has signed up to the National Statement of Regulatory Intent, with all other work heath and safety regulators (except Victoria) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This statement sets out the enforcement approach that WorkSafe and these other regulators will take to ensure compliance with work health and safety laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the statement on the Safe Work Australia website.

Mental health and COVID-19

How do WHS duties apply to risks to psychological health?

The duty of employers under the model WHS laws apply to psychological health too. This is a stressful time for all Australians, and employers must do what they can to reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace.

What are possible psychosocial hazards (workplace stress factors) from COVID-19?

Psychosocial hazards arising from COVID-19 could include:

  • Exposure to customer violence or aggression – for example in healthcare or supermarkets.
  • Increased work demand – for example supermarket home delivery drivers.
  • Isolated work – for example where workers are working from home. For general WHS information on working from home see Safe Work Australia’s Working from Home page.
  • Low support – for example workers working in isolation may feel they don’t have the normal support they receive to do their jobs or where work demands have dramatically increased supervisors may not be able to offer the same level of support.
  • Poor environmental conditions – for example where temporary workplaces may be hot, cold or noisy.
  • Poor organisational change management – for example if businesses are restructuring to address the effects of COVID-19 but are not providing information or support to workers.
  • Fatigue – for example worker’s mental and physical demands may have increased, or a change in work scheduling and working time, or environmental conditions or factors outside the workplace.
  • Domestic or family violence and abuse – for example working from home might not be the safest option for all your workers. For more information about supporting workers impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse, please visit this website.

What steps can employers take to minimise workplace stress?

Steps you can take to eliminate or minimise workplace stress are to:

  • be well informed with information from official sources, regularly communicate with workers and share relevant information as it comes to hand
  • consult your workers on any risks to their psychological health and how these can be managed
  • provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns and to find workplace information in a central place
  • inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities Australia Business or Fair Work Ombudsman
  • proactively support workers who you identify may be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home)
  • refer workers to appropriate channels to support workplace mental health and wellbeing such as employee assistance programs or there are many digital mental health services that can be access online or over the phone
  • For more specific tips on maintaining yours’ and your workers’ mental health go the mental health and wellbeing page go the mental health and wellbeing page

More information about work-related psychological health and safety and how to meet your duties can be found in the Safe Work Australia Guide: Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties.

A new program, Mentally Healthier Workplaces, was launched earlier in 2020 to support businesses to actively contribute to positive mental health in the ACT.

The program allows businesses to pledge to prioritise their workers’ mental health and provides access to a range of resources and support offered by Worksafe ACT.

Disclosure and Privacy

  • Personal information should only be used or disclosed on a ‘need-to-know’ basis
  • Only the minimum amount of personal information reasonably necessary to prevent or manage COVID-19 should be collected, used or disclosed
  • Consider taking steps now to notify staff of how their personal information will be handled in responding to any potential or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Ensure reasonable steps are in place to keep personal information secure, including where employees are working remotely.

For more information visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

Visit the following sites for information on caring for mental health:

Also translated versions of the resources in Arabic, Vietnamese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Farsi, Italian and Korean.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: April 21 2020