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You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of people contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work for your business, however, you must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise that risk.
Residential building sites are typically outdoors, small scale with less than ten workers at any time, with a workforce that typically travels in private or company vehicles rather than by public transport. The industry is therefore not subject to the same COVID-19 related issues as other industries.
However, you should:
The government has announced sites can operate seven days a week but it may be worth investigating whether works can be scheduled to reduce the number of people on a site at any one time or set up a roster rotation arrangement.
Under WHS laws if those supplies are not available, it is not considered reasonably practicable for you to provide them. In this case, you should look to provide alternative options for workers, such as minimising the number of workers onsite or setting up a hand-washing station.
However, if you unable to get the necessary supplies to minimise the risks you should consider whether the risks posed to workers and others at the workplace are so great that workers should not be required to attend the workplace and perform work. This will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Much like the normal approach to workplace safety, if you feel unsafe or see someone engaging in unsafe practices you should raise it either directly with the person or with the person responsible for the site, who can then take appropriate action.
Workers’ compensation arrangements differ across the country, however, there are common threshold requirements that would apply in the case of COVID-19:
Compared to work-related injuries, it is more difficult to prove that a disease was contracted in, or caused by, particular employment. In the case of a virus such as COVID-19, establishing the time and place of contraction may become increasingly hard.
Whether a claim for workers’ compensation for contracting COVID-19 is accepted will be a matter for the relevant workers’ compensation authority applying their jurisdiction’s particular laws. Workers’ compensation authorities will consider each claim on its merits, with regard to the individual circumstances and evidence.
If you have any further questions or concerns contact a HIA Workplace Adviser on 1300 650 620 or