Safety, social distancing & hygiene

Keeping you, workers and clients safe and healthy

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are responsible for identifying and managing work health and safety risks to their workers at their workplaces and worksites. This includes complying with normal housekeeping and amenities obligations and putting specific measures in place to prevent exposure to the Coronavirus. PCBUs who are responsible for workplaces and worksites, should start to take actions to reduce the risk of transmission. Some of these actions are outlined below with resources available to assist.

If you require more information on hygiene social distancing or other health and safety obligations please contact us, visit the Australian Department of Health website or Worksafe Queensland.

Resources

Practice good hygiene

  • Provide and promote sanitisers for use on entering workplaces, after eating, after using the bathroom, after sharing equipment and regularly throughout the day.
  • Limit the sharing of tools and equipment. Where it is necessary to share equipment, provide gloves and/or sanitising products.
  • Increase routine environmental cleaning of the workplace – amenities, high traffic areas, shared vehicles, machines or plant.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly, such as machines, plant control panels, stair rails, toilets and bathrooms, meal areas, office desks.
  • Provide access to toilet paper, tissues and cleaning supplies.
  • Where possible provide good ventilation, open windows, enhance airflow, adjust air conditioning.
  • If change rooms are provided do not share items like towels and soap bars and wash your hands after changing.
  • If providing food to workers, consider hygiene practices among food handlers and preparations.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) have produced a Guide to keeping workplaces safe, clean and healthy during COVID-19.

Social distancing

Social distancing is one way to help slow the spread of viruses. Generally, social distancing means:

  • Staying at home when people are sick
  • Avoiding gathering if they are not essential
  • Allowing 4sqm of space per person for essential indoor gatherings
  • Staying 1.5m away from people as much as possible and for outdoor essential gatherings
  • Avoiding touching others such as shaking hands, kissing or hugging.

On a construction site you can practice social distancing in the following ways:

  • Plan ways to enable physical distancing of 1.5m to reduce in-person contact of workers. On a construction site this can be done by:
    • Careful scheduling of work to provide distance between work groups and individuals, e.g. schedule for some internal trades and external trades to work at the same time rather several internal trades only.
    • Minimising the numbers of workers in work groups or teams e.g. only send the necessary numbers of workers to complete a task.
    • When setting up fixed workspaces on site, ensure they are away from other people, high traffic areas and amenities.
    • Staggering of lunch breaks, start times and finish times to minimise any larger gatherings of workers
    • If a large part of the project needs to be undertaken requiring larger numbers of workers i.e. formwork, schedule for only that task to be undertaken on that day or within a specific timeframe.
    • Where none of this is possible encourage good hygiene practices as outlined above.
  • Cancel all international and any unnecessary domestic travel plans.
  • Do not hold or allow employees to attend non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more people such as, large inductions, toolbox talks, conferences, training or celebrations.
  • Do not hold or allow employees to attend non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people.
  • Cancel non-essential activities, such as domestic business travel and large face-to-face meetings.
  • Encourage flexible working arrangements including working from home and working in smaller teams.
  • Where possible schedule teams of workers to work separately, at different times or on separate parts of the project.
  • Limit any unnecessary visitors to the site, e.g sales staff, office staff, family members or clients.
Using personal hoists and lifts
  • Limit numbers in hoist to allow for social distancing – taking into account the hoist operator
  • Persons should face away from each other whilst riding in the hoist
  • Travel directly to necessary floors – make more trips and reduce numbers of persons in hoist/ lift at any one time
  • Promote use of stairs for those tasks which don’t require carrying of large equipment/ material – monitor overuse
  • Schedule times for the use of the hoist i.e. for specific tasks, trades or for cleaning times.
  • Avoid large congregations of workers waiting for the hoist at entry points – promoting the principals of social distancing, stagger start times and mealtimes will assist with this
  • Rotate hoist operators at regular intervals
  • Regularly clean the hoist, including handrails and operators controls
  • Provide hand sanitiser in hoists.

Communicate and keep up-to-date

  • Keep staff informed of the actions you are taking.
  • Communicate continually with your clients and other stakeholders to ensure they are also informed of any new policies and procedures you have put in place
  • Promote preventive actions amongst your staff - lead by example.
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
  • Plan for increased levels of staff absences.
  • Display educational materials
  • Plan for what to do if staff arrive sick at work and communicate this to the workers - e.g. who do they need to contact, identify an isolation room or separated area.
  • Keep up to date with advice on controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including any restrictions on normal business activities, and respond accordingly

If someone contracts COVID-19

  • If there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your place of business, you should seek advice from health.gov.au
  • If public health services become aware of a positive diagnosis, they have procedures in place to track the movements of the person and will provide advice on what action should be taken.
  • You do not necessarily have to send all workers home or close your business, wait for guidance from the Health Department and call Master Builders for assistance.

Employers and businesses may also have other health and safety obligations under Queensland law. Despite the current pandemic, you still need to comply with all other health and safety obligations as normal.

Equipment shortages

Due to the high demand for face masks to prevent the spread of disease, the availability of respiratory protection for prevention of exposure to construction dusts (such as silica and asbestos) is VERY low.

If you are experiencing difficulties in finding masks please contact Master Builders for some guidance on what other respiratory protection options may be available or refer to the guideline from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Entering homes & properties

You are able to send as many workers as required to complete the work at the premises; however, you must follow the relevant social distancing rules. For example – if you are performing a kitchen renovation that requires four workers, you can do this as long as you have social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Examples of work that may continue:

  • Building or renovation work inside or outside a house
  • Maintenance work like plumbing, gas fitting, electrical, etc.
  • Landscaping work, like lawn, pools, shed installations
  • Internal installations like screens, blinds carpet, etc.
  • Meeting to sign a contract, do quotes, pick colours, etc.
Keep the lines of communication open

We recommend you check in with clients before visiting homes or premises and:

  • Request information about whether people at their premises are healthy and that no one is being quarantined or self-isolating. Use our Health Disclosure Form for this purpose.
  • Use our Notice for private premise clients to advise what measures you will be taking to ensure your workers health and safety and the safety of those at the property during your work.

COVID WHS Plan

Does our business need a Covid Plan?

All businesses need to have their own plan in place to respond to COVID-19 and to any directives issued by Queensland Health.

For construction businesses, this is an internal plan that doesn't need to be submitted to Queensland Health for approval.

Items you should consider in your plan include:

  • Infection prevention and control policies and procedures
  • Safe systems of work
  • How workers will be consulted about COVID-19 issues
  • How you will monitor and update your plan as public health information changes.

If you have an existing WHS plan in place that covers COVID-19 risks and you have consulted with your staff to build it, you should continue to use it. For construction businesses, this could be captured in your WHS Management Plan, safe work method statements, toolbox talks or other safety policies and procedures you already have in place. Alternatively you can develop a standalone COVID WHS Plan for your project or business. Master Builders has developed a COVID WHS Plan template to assist construction businesses meet these requirements, available to Master Builders members on eDocs.

FAQs

I’m out of respiratory masks for work relating to silica. What should I do?

Contact us and we’ll advise on alternative solutions for now. We have advice and suggestions on our website and can provide specific advice on your situation.

Can I still go and quote for clients?

Yes, but strict social distancing rules should be adhered to and you should have extra hygiene precautions in place. You should also ask clients to confirm they are well and not self-isolating prior to attending.

Can I go ahead and sign new contracts?

Absolutely, but make sure you factor in delays you may be aware of or can expect and discuss these prior to signing. You’re unlikely to get an extension of time for a foreseeable delay for a contract signed now without some changes to your contract.

I’ve got machinery and equipment that’s shared. What do I do?

Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly, such as machines, plant control panels, stair rails, toilets and bathrooms, meal areas, office desks.

Can I still go into homes and carry out repairs and renovations?

Yes, the building and construction industry has been classified as an essential service so you are allowed to continue work. You must comply with the social distancing rules and additional hygiene measures required.

Is there a maximum number of workers I can have on site?

No, at this stage, there is no maximum or prescribed number of workers, as every site is so different. It all comes down to how you comply with the social distancing rules and additional hygiene measures.

Does the 2-person rule apply to builders & tradies in people’s homes?

No, the government health directives from 2 and 26 April exclude builders and tradies from this rule. You can still perform building and reno work, provide quotes and sign contracts. We recommend you clearly communicate with homeowners what you’re doing to comply with the social distancing rules and additional hygiene measures. We've got resources that can assist you to do this.

Do I have to notify WHSQ or QBCC if a worker tests positive for COVID 19?

No, WHSQ and QBCC are not considering this a notifiable incident and therefor you do not need to notify them. However if you have a suspected or actual case of COVID-19, you should notify Queensland Department of Health on 13 HEALTH (432 584).

Do I need to have a Safe work Method Statement for COVID-19?

There is no specific legislative requirement that requires you to have a SWMS for “COVID19” or social distancing and hygiene measures specifically for COVID-19.

If you already have a SWMS for a high risk activity, and the process for which you undertake that activity is materially changed because of additional social distancing or hygiene requirements, then the SWMS should be updated to reflect these changes to the process.

If you put steps in a SWMS that relate to social distancing or hygiene, it is recommended to be clear in the SWMS as to which step in the process it relates to (rather than a blanket statement), as there is likely to be steps in processes where you may not be able to maintain the distance – i.e. holding and securing of roof sheets or plaster by two or more people.

To safely perform my trade, I regularly need to work in closer proximity (less than 1.5 meters) with another person. Is this allowed?

To safely perform some trades, workers may regularly work closer than the recommended 1.5 meters social distancing. As an example, plasterers who regularly work in close proximity for activities like lifting and securing plasterboard, with the same colleague/s may continue to do so, but wherever possible, protect themselves with hygiene practices.

During the COVID-19 pandemic do people providing first aid at the workplace need any additional protective equipment or processes?

No. The normal first aid practices outlined in the First Aid Code of Practice apply for administering first aid to people in the workplace. These include:

  • Good hygiene practices – such as washing hands before, during and after treatment.
  • Wearing personal protective equipment relevant for the treatment – gloves for wounds, and if carrying out mouth to mouth resuscitation – using a personal resuscitation mask
  • Appropriate handling and disposal of clinical waste (sharps, human tissue or fluids, used dressings).

Although in some circumstances it may be difficult, it is also important to maintain social distance as much as possible during treatment.

FAQs from Queensland Government

FAQs from Worksafe Queensland

FAQs border restrictions

SDS requirements WHSQ

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