The Novel (meaning New) Coronavirus is a previously unidentified virus from the coronavirus family which cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The virus is also called SARS-CoV-2, and when someone gets sick with this virus it is called COVID-19.
Symptoms of COVID-19
- a cough
- sore throat
- shortness of breath.
How can you catch it?
You might catch the novel coronavirus if someone sneezes or coughs onto you, or if someone sneezes or coughs onto a surface that you touch, and then touch your face or eat.
How can you best prevent yourself from catching it?
Wash your hands properly and often, especially when you have been out in public, and always before eating of touching your face.
Take note of the 6 steps to washing your hands properly on the picture below and do your best to follow the steps each time you wash your hands.
If you don’t have the facilities to wash your hands, use a hand disinfectant, this is not as effective as washing your hands, but is better than doing nothing.
Also, try to stay at least 1.5 metres away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Even if they don’t have the coronavirus, you don’t want to catch whatever they do have.
Stay fit and healthy, try not to get rundown.
What to do if you get sick?
If you feel unwell, it’s always best to stay home, but at the moment, it’s particularly important that you do – to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
If you have travelled overseas, or been in contact with a person known to have contracted the novel coronavirus, then you should immediately contact your doctor to let them know you may have the virus, and take their advice, or call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080 for advice. You will need to isolate/quarantine yourself for 14 days from when you returned from overseas, or your last contact with a person known to have the virus.
Make sure you all cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, but don’t use your hand to do so.
If you get sick, then it’s best to wear a facemask if you have one when you go to the doctors to try and prevent yourself from passing the disease on to others.
Should you feel scared/overwhelmed/worried or anxious about the Novel Coronavirus?
It’s normal to be a bit concerned when something like this happens, there’s so much talk/hype about it, and a lot of the stories are scary. It’s best to stick to the information provided by reputable sources for e.g.: Department of Health and the world health organisation.
It’s important to take time to switch off and focus on the things you can control, rather than worrying about things you can’t control. Washing your hands properly and often is the number one thing you can do to protect your health. Staying home if you’re sick is the best thing you can do to protect others.
If you’re feeling scared, worried or upset for two weeks or more, or how you are feeling is distracting you from going about your normal routines, it’s worth speaking to someone about it – either someone close to you or a medical professional.
What do workers need to do?
You have a duty to take reasonable care of your own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
You need to follow any reasonable policies or directions your employer has put in place in response to COVID-19. This includes if you are working from another location, such as working from home.
What do employers need to do?
As an employer, you must identify risks to work health and safety from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, and wherever possible, put in place appropriate controls. They need to follow government directions, including implementing appropriate physical distancing – keeping everyone in the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart.
Risks from COVID-19 virus can be physical or psychosocial.
What you can do to manage the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus will depend on your workplace and the work undertaken, ensure you communicate with your employees about what they need to do.
To keep workers safe and limit the spread of COVID-19, every employer should do the following at their workplace:
- allow workers to work from home, where possible
- ensure physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people
- encourage all workers to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and to practise good hygiene
- be aware of how to spot COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) and make sure workers do not come to work if they are unwell
- make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned and disinfected
- have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread.
For more information, see the SafeWork Australia business resource kit.
Can employees stop work if it is unsafe?
In some circumstances, workers have the right to stop or refuse to carry out unsafe work. They have this right if there is a reasonable concern you would be exposed to a serious risk to your health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard – this could include exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
If they stop work because it is unsafe, they need to tell their employer as soon as possible. They must also then be available to carry out suitable alternative work, such as working from home.
As an Employer, you must inform workers about the situation and any changes to organisational policies or procedures.
We have written this information into a toolbox talk for your use as well as written up a Company Policy and Procedure to manage Coronavirus. You may access them via the link below:
Please remember these are generic in nature and need to be modified to suit your company. You will also need to change the references to “Company Name” to your company name and add your logo. Another thing to consider if you are in VIC or WA is the terminology (e.g. OHS or WHS, Employer and PCBU etc). For clarification on anything please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Resources and links
Review the websites from national, state and territory agencies and departs for the latest information and advice. You can also, obtain help and information from your local General Practitioner or Community Health Centre.
A guidance for workers and employers on work health and safety and workers’ compensation in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak has been issued by Comcare. It includes information and advice on WHS obligations, managing risks and compensation coverage.
Safe Work Australia
- Building and construction
- Public Transport
- Office workers
- Delivery Drivers
- Retail Work
- Road Freight
- Taxi & Ride Share Services
- In House Services
- Warehousing and Logistics
- Food Processing and Manufacturing
- Manufacture or Supply of Alcohol-Based Sanitisers
- Early Childhood Education and Care
- Stevedores and Port Operations
- FIFO and DIDO Workers
- Health and Aged Care Providers
- NDIS Providers
- Marine and Airline Workers
New South Wales
- WorkSafe Victoria: Preparing for pandemics
- WorkSafe Victoria: Exposure to coronavirus in workplaces
State and territory health departments and other agencies
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and safety: Novel coronavirus and absence from work
- National Coronavirus Health Information line: 1800 020 080
- World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease advice for the public – Myth busters
- Australian Government Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
- Fair Work Ombudsman: Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws
Mental Health Support
The COVID-19 outbreak may be causing stress and mental health should be taken into consideration. If you require support or resources, contact or review:
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- World Health Organisation: Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak