Covid-19 poses a serious work health and safety risk to young workers, many of whom work in service industries and have close contact with hundreds of people a day. It is your boss’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of you and your co-workers while you are working - this includes protecting you from the virus.
In order to adequately protect workers during this pandemic, employers must have a plan that your workplace can enact to look after your health and safety. Workers and their Unions must be consulted on this plan.
What does it mean to have a plan?
Your workplace should have a plan to ensure your health and safety at work. Workers and their Unions must be consulted on what is put into this plan. It should detail all the control measures that are going to be put in place or have been put in place to protect you and your co-workers from the Covid-19.
Having a plan is important so that workers get the chance to have input on how their workplace is going to respond to the pandemic. It is also a useful way to make sure communication is clear and everyone is informed on what should be happening in their workplace.
What should be included in my workplace’s plan?
There are lots of different controls that can be put in place to protect workers from exposure to the virus, but it is important that they are appropriate for your workplace and provide adequate protection. Your employer should always look to eliminate the risk wherever possible and to not rely on administrative controls or personal protective equipment which are the least effective forms of control.
Michael is a waiter at his local café. Michael is worried about handling money that may or may not carry germs including the virus. To eliminate this hazard, Michael’s workplace is requiring people to pay by card when they order so that Michael doesn’t have to touch anything that has been handled by customers.
How can your boss keep you safe?
Support workers who may need to isolate when potentially infected
Provide masks where necessary, hand sanitiser and RATs where possible
Facilitate greater hygiene for everyone within your workplace
Maintain regular communication with all workers to provide up to date advice and information
Additional, more precise arrangements will need to be put in place for public facing workers (including putting in place controls for psychosocial hazards e.g. bullying and harassment).
What about bullying and harassment?
This is a time of high anxiety and stress for a lot of people and unfortunately, that stress can often be taken out on front line workers. Regardless of the current situation, no worker deserves to be abused, bullied or harassed at work.
Bullying and harassment is a work health and safety issue and it should be treated as such. It is your employer’s responsibility to prevent and respond to bullying and harassment in the workplace including when it comes from customers.
What if my workplace doesn't have a plan or it's not enough to keep us safe?
If you are worried about an immediate risk to your health and safety at work please contact WorkSafe ACT at 6207 300.
If you are concerned that your employer is not acting fast enough or simply not doing enough to protect your health and safety at work, then it might be time to start a dialogue with your co-workers about how you can all ensure that your rights are met, and your health and safety is looked after. Talking to your co-workers and your Union may help you identify and assess the risks in your workplace, and together you can encourage your employer to fulfil their duty and control the risks.
If you have a concern about your work health and safety, please contact the Young Workers Centre for free and confidential advice by emailing email@example.com.