In the last few months, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted people all over the world. The outbreak continues to unfold daily, having already delivered a devastating blow to the Australian economy. Let there be no mistake about the facts of our current situation. We are still in the middle of a public health crisis, in what is shaping up to be the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

This predicament which is so often described as ‘unprecedented’, ‘uncharted’ and ‘extraordinary’ has required unconventional measures to be taken – ranging from social distancing and quarantine lockdowns to massive increases in government expenditure and bailouts.

With the constant struggle of the government to balance both the health and economic impact, there has been much confusion and sensationalism right across all the major news outlets. However, there is a common theme that has arisen from nearly all conversations surrounding this novel virus – it is no longer acceptable to believe that your wellbeing is not impacted by others around you. As such, if a business requires workers to be in some physical proximity to each other or third-party contractors, then they have a responsibility to implement policies that protect them. 

How will organisations adapt?

The health and safety of employees and contractors should always be a top priority. As such many businesses have implemented new rules and processes aimed at protecting workers, while at the same time reducing the spread of infections. These include holds on travel, implementing ‘working from home’ policies and transitioning to online virtual meetings.

But what about the businesses that require their staff or contractors physically on site to operate? Consider manufacturing, local government services, construction, health and aged care to name just a few. The following are some of the common themes within policies from these organisations around COVID-19:

  1. Social Distancing – COVID-19 can be transmitted from person-to-person (P2P) contact. Limiting person-to-person interaction through rotating shifts, limiting staff on site, and reducing group meetings can limit the spread of COVID-19 from one party to the next.
  2. Personal Hygiene – One of the most effective ways to combat the spread of COVID-19 is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands. Many organisations are enforcing more through personal hygiene processes, in addition to providing more readily available access to hand sanitisers in highly frequented areas.
  3. Equipment Sanitisation – Sanitising equipment that comes into contact with multiple individuals at a high frequency (think door handles, machine levers, elevator buttons, etc.) can also reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Implementing policies around the above three themes is a good start for any organisation. However, it needs to be acknowledged that we are all part of a ‘Global Community’. In very basic terms, this means members of your supply chain who’s actions you cannot necessarily control (contractors, suppliers and vendors) will undoubtedly impact the health and safety of your workers.

The question then becomes – how can you minimise the potential health impact of a contractor or third-party worker on your own staff?

  1. Quick and Effective Communication – Keep contractors up to date on your internal COVID-19 policies and procedures in real time. They need to know what you are doing to minimise the health and safety risk to your team (and as an extension, themselves).
  2. Track Contractor Acceptance of your Policies and Procedures – It’s one thing to broadcast your new policies and procedures to your contractors, it’s entirely another to ensure that they have been read and acknowledged. Consider requesting a Safe Work Method Statement for COVID-19 Infection Control.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about ensuring that the policies you have created and implemented for your internal staff are extended to external parties who are required to work alongside them – it’s really that simple. The health and wellbeing of your workers will be impacted directly by your ability to achieve this. The ‘curve’ may be flattening, but it will only stay along this trajectory if we continue to operate safely and responsibly with the whole community in mind.

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2 Comments

  1. Adrian Thomas

    The idea of extending internal policies externally is easier said than done. Asking for compliance is one thing, confirming it is another.

    Reply
  2. Jason White

    regular messaging at all levels, individual discussions, toolbox talks, investigation follow ups, messaging needs to be relevant, timely, informative and constant, along with regular updates, as community access and controls change, brilliant time to outline the changes and to re-in force safety messaging.

    Along with messaging, you have regular Covid built inspections, run both internal and external inspections, corrective actions and reviews follow up.

    Reply

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