Keeping up-to-date with COVID safe workplace guidance

If you’re a retail business finding it tricky to navigate COVID workplace rules and guidance, you are not alone. Since our May article resuming retail operations during COVID-19 the Australian Government and State and Territories have announced their plans for easing restrictions. 

In addition to this, Safe Work Australia and State and Territory health and safety regulators have been busy and have produced further industry guidance, including guidance for the retail industry.  This has left businesses with a plethora of information to sift through and consider in the planning and implementation of a COVID safe workplace.

Retailers must keep abreast of requirements to manage COVID-19 in the workplace. It is therefore critical that you know what resources you need to tap into to keep on top of your obligations as a business, and to ensure the health and safety of your workers, customers, and others who may be exposed to the operational activities of the business.  

The Australian Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) is your first port of call to gather essential information, keep up-to-date with coronavirus alerts, news, health alerts and advice, restrictions, and safety advice. It’s important to note, that whilst the Australian Government has announced the 3 step framework on easing restrictions to create a COVIDSafe society, states and territories can implement changes on their COVID-19 conditions. It is therefore crucial for you to know and understand the requirements of the states and/or territories where you operate your business. To get a general overview on local restrictions, you can use the COVID-19 Restriction Checker. For more specific advice on state and territory restrictions, you can access healthdirect, which provides links to your local authorities.  

The Safe Work Australia website provides a central hub of work health and safety (WHS) guidance and tools that Australian retail workplaces can use to form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.  For industry-specific guidance, retailers can access the ‘retail’ page – this includes resources for workplaces in the retail industry on work health and safety, workers’ compensation, and COVID-19.

While the Safe Work Australia Retail COVID guidance will be a primary resource for retail businesses, retailers are encouraged to keep abreast of COVID related guidance published from the relevant state or territory health and safety regulators (please refer to the resources list at the end of this article).

Identifying and understanding the requirements to provide a COVID Safe workplace is the first step to ensuring operational activities do not compromise the health of workers, customers, and the community. All retailers that are open or reopening must have a WHS plan in place. The WHS plan should address at a minimum, protocols for:

  • Health monitoring – in consultation with your workers, you must put in place policies and procedures relating to COVID-19, including what a worker must do if they are diagnosed or suspect they may have COVID-19
  • Physical distancing – Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  The current advice from the Department of Health is that everyone must keep at least 1.5 metres from others (outside of their family unit) where possible. In addition, in a given space, there must be a 4 square metres of space per person where possible. 
  • Hygiene – A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. You must have measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace.  
  • Cleaning – A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace.

More recently, Safe Work Australia has published additional retail COVID guidance, including:

  • A cleaning guide for retail.  The guide provides recommendations on the frequency of routine cleaning and disinfecting in retail environments, as well as guidance for cleaning and disinfection following a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 (the retail guide can be found on page 14 of the document).
  • Change room guidance for retail stores. This guidance has been incorporated into Safe Work Australia’s retail industry guidance, under hygiene. It addresses physical distancing and hygiene requirements in change rooms and exposure to aggressive or abusive customers as a result of change room restrictions.

In addition to the newly published Safe Work Australia retail COVID guides, the Australian Retailers Association released a Retail Reopening – Best Practice Guidelines to assure the community, including retail employees and customers that they can have confidence that retailers and shopping centres will continue to follow stringent public health guidelines, particularly as the community access essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and other goods and services.

State, Territory Health and Safety Regulators

NT WorkSafe

WorkSafe QLD

SafeWork NSW

SafeWork SA

WorkSafe WA

WorkSafe TAS

WorkSafe ACT




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