The seven steps every workplace should follow if someone shows symptoms for coronavirus
For the many thousands of Australians who still need to go to work around the country, the prospect of a co-worker having COVID-19 in the workplace could be alarming.
In his press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people to follow recent advice published by SafeWork Australia on how to deal with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at work.
Authorities in different states and territories may give you additional advice depending on your circumstances once you contact them, but these seven steps outlined by SafeWork Australia are a starting place for any workplace with a suspected or confirmed case.
What to do if someone is at work and shows symptoms of COVID-19
If someone is at work when they find out or begin to suspect they have the virus, these are the seven steps SafeWork Australia says to follow:
Isolate: Remove the person from others. SafeWork Australia recommends giving the person a surgical mask, if possible.
Inform: Tell health authorities by calling the national COVID-19 hotline on 1800 020 080, and follow the advice of health officials. Depending on your situation, authorities could give you specific advice.
Transport: Workplaces should make sure the person has transport, either to their home or to a medical facility.
Clean: The area where the person has been working and all the places they have been should be cleaned. This may mean evacuating those areas. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be used when cleaning.
Identify: Find out who at the workplace had close contact with the infected person recently, up to 24 hours before they first started experiencing symptoms.
Close contact means anyone who has been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes with the infected person or has been in the same space as them for two hours.
Those employees should be sent home to isolate. If the infected worker had contact with large parts of the workplace, all employees may have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Clean: The areas where these people have been should also be cleaned, this could involve the evacuation of these areas and cleaners should also use PPE.
Review: The workplace should review the way it controls the risks of COVID-19 and decide whether work may need to change, with employees kept up to date on what is happening and on the appropriate safety procedures.
What to do if someone is not at work when they show symptoms of COVID-19
If someone is not at the workplace when they find out or suspect they have the virus, workplaces should still take some of the steps mentioned above.
First, SafeWork Australia say the workplace should still contact the national COVID-19 hotline, inform health authorities and follow their instructions.
Second, it's still important to identify anyone who had contact with the infected person in the workplace and send them home to isolate.
Third, any workplace areas the infected person or their close contacts have been working in should be cleaned.
Finally, there should also be a review of how the workplace is managing the risks of COVID-19.
States and territories each have their own regulations, and local authorities will be able to provide guidance for specific workplaces.
But these guidelines from SafeWork Australia are a basis for responding to a suspected or confirmed case of the virus in a workplace.
How to spot COVID-19 symptoms in your workplace
The Department of Health has released a handy coronavirus symptom checker.
The symptom checker will use information about age, gender, physical condition, location, occupation, recent travel and possible exposure to an infected person to determine if people meet the Government guidelines for testing.
If you or the person who may have coronavirus are experiencing any of the below symptoms, call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.
central or crushing chest pain
unconsciousness or suffering a seizure (fit)
difficulty breathing or turning blue
How to clean and disinfect the workplace
Cleaning before disinfecting will help remove germs like the coronavirus from surfaces. Cleaning removes organic matter which can inhibit the effectiveness of disinfectants.
The amount of time germs can survive depends on several factors, including the amount of contaminated bodily fluid, like respiratory droplets, on a surface, as well as the temperature and humidity of the space in which it is sitting.
Usually, coronavirus is unlikely to survive once droplets created by sneezing or coughing dry out.
But the Government is recommending routine cleaning to ensure the chance of transmission is minimised.
The Department of Health recommends using detergent for cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, bedrails, tabletops and light switches.
For surfaces with less frequent contact like floors, ceilings, walls and blinds, a wipe with detergent or a mop is suggested if they are visibly soiled or after any spillage.
Sinks and basins should be cleaned regularly.
Disinfectant should be wiped across surfaces with disposable paper towels while wearing gloves and a mask.
Signs and posters to help keep the workplace clean
Safe Work Australia has made a range of visual aids for the workplace to help remind staff of what they can do to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
For a range of material on hygiene measures for workers and signs to inform customers of changed operational hours, check out this website that links to downloadable posters from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health.