If you engage contractors, you’re no doubt aware of the increased risks they bring to your business. They are less familiar with your day to day processes and safety practices, than your employees and are often not subject to the same controls. However, to date, some contractors have been more high-risk than others. Those working in construction, agriculture and warehousing, for example, incur many inherent risks that aren’t found elsewhere. However, with the world facing a global pandemic, the level of risk for various types of work is changing.

In light of Covid-19, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, we are all having to change the way we work, and the workplace health and safety measures we implement are paramount to this. A big part of this is adopting social distancing and facilitating home-working, where possible. However, for many Australians who aren’t classified as white-collar workers, including many contractor services, these measures aren’t possible. As business owners, it is our responsibility to reassess the risk that engaging contractors bring and take appropriate actions.

Contractors That Could Now be High Risk

Some occupations could be at higher risk of catching the norovirus than others, especially those who have a lot of direct contact with the public. Not only does this include those in the medical field, but also service occupations. Here are four types of contractor services that may now be high risk due to Covid-19:

1. Cleaners

Never has it been so important to keep our places of work clean and hygienic. However, contractors that we engage to do the cleaning are at an increased risk. By the very nature of their work, they are dealing with waste and have to wipe down surfaces which could potentially be infected. If they don’t carry out their work in the correct way, they risk spreading disease. This is even more apparent for cleaners of enclosed spaces with tightly packed people such as planes and trains. In fact, airline operator Qantas has recently received a breach notice by the SafeWork NSW, due to the inadequate systems of work for its cleaners. If your business engages cleaners, it is vital to consider if they are at an increased risk, and develop an appropriate safe system of work, providing instruction on the use of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep both your contractors and employees safe.

2. Temporary Receptionists

Your reception team is the first point of contact for everyone that arrives at your place of work, and this means that they come into contact with more people than the rest of your workforce. If you engage temporary receptionists, it’s vital that you are aware of the increased risk that they bring. You have a responsibility to ensure they have had the necessary induction training and to create safer processes. Whether this is by ensuring they no longer shake hands with visitors or using technology to create social distancing, you have an obligation to reduce the risk.

3. Delivery Riders

Despite the global pandemic, we still need to run our businesses and move products from A to B. Delivery riders are a contractor that a vast number of organisations use to deliver stock. However, their constant contact with numerous people and places of work puts them at increased risk of catching the virus, considering the number of people who are self-isolating in their homes. Some organisations have implemented measures to ensure items are dropped off outside, thereby minimising human-to-human contact. If you engage delivery riders, it is your responsibility to find a way to reduce the risk that they could bring to your workplace.

4. Ride Share Drivers

In the same way as delivery riders need to get products from A to B, drivers move our staff from destination A to B. While we should try to limit our movements in these difficult times, many of our employees still have to travel. Uber drivers are at an increased risk of Covid-19 due to their contact with multiple passengers each day. If your business engages their services, it is time to review how to reduce the risk that they now bring. Measures could include insisting that passengers sit in the back seat, requesting that air conditioning is not used in the vehicles and not allowing the driver to handle any luggage.

Reducing the Risk of Engaging Contractors

Never has the importance of workplace health and safety been more apparent and reducing the risk of engaging contractors is fundamental. We should all be aware of the contractors we work with, assessing any increased risk that they now bring and implementing measures to reduce those risks. This may include providing more safety equipment, implementing safer processes, developing additional induction training or creating a roster to build distance. As business owners, we have a global responsibility to reduce risk and slow the spread of Covid-19 and how we manage our contractors is fundamental.

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