Case Study – Cleaning
Colin runs a small window manufacturing business and employs 6 people. His business premises consists of a workshop and warehouse space for manufacturing windows, an office for taking phone calls and doing paperwork, and a retail display area for customers to inspect their product range.
Colin is contacted by a pest control company who is offering a new weekly service to clean and disinfect premises, which includes a new and innovative fogging solution. Colin is told a machine will pump a chlorine-based disinfectant into the air in all parts of the workplace which will kill 99.99 % of all virus and bacteria, also getting into all those hard to reach spaces that you can’t clean manually. Colin is told that while it’s expensive at $4000, because it is so effective it would only need to be done at the initial clean and then once per month and would ensure he is meeting his work health and safety duties.
Colin knows he has a duty of care to his workers and customers and is aware that cleaning is an important part of ensuring COVID-19 is not transmitted. However, he has not heard of fogging before, and at $4000 per fogging treatment it seems very expensive, especially as business has slowed down. Colin jumps online, and searches for information on cleaning and fogging in particular. Colin reads information from the Department of Health and Safe Work Australia and learns that regular cleaning with detergent is suitable for the vast majority of situations, and that fogging is not a recommended method of disinfection. Colin also learns that chlorine based fogging solutions can be corrosive and may damage his products and equipment.
Colin decides that he and his staff are able to undertake the necessary cleaning themselves by following the advice from government agencies. This includes daily cleaning of all door handles, benchtops and other frequently touched surfaces in the retail space, office, workshop and warehouse. The promotional material from the pest control company was persuasive and it leaves Colin with a nagging doubt. He decides to check in with the WHS regulator just to be sure his plan is sound. He receives an email back the next day confirming there is no requirement for fogging and reassurance his approach is sound.
Case Study – PPE
Roger is responsible for a food processing facility that manufactures canned and bottled goods. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Roger’s staff have raised concerns with him about whether the PPE they currently wear will protect them from COVID-19 at the workplace.
Roger knows he has a duty of care for the health and safety of his staff under WHS laws. Roger has always ensured his staff wear appropriate PPE that meets food industry standards. The PPE worn by his staff includes hand protection (nitrile, latex and non-latex gloves), protective eye wear (goggles) and protective clothing (gowns, hairnets and coverall boots).
Roger investigates the current government advice about the best ways to protect against COVID-19. He already has in place physical distancing between workers, hand washing procedures and a cleaning and disinfection schedule. Roger explains to his staff that the PPE they are wearing is still appropriate and in combination with physical distancing, good hand hygiene and cleaning at the workplace, no additional or different PPE are necessary.
He reminds staff that as a food preparation facility, strict personal health and hygiene measures and cleaning are already of most importance and that staff should continue to implement these practices. Staff were also reminded to always practice physical distancing within the facility. Roger also puts up posters around the workplace that show how the practices that are in place work to protect staff from COVID-19.
Case Study – Mental Health
Raul runs a small manufacturing business with 15 staff. They’ve been able to adapt to new markets in the COVID-19 pandemic and are doing well. They’ve changed what they produce and are working long hours trying to take advantage of the sudden demand. They’ve implemented shift arrangements to support physical distancing in the workshop and are renting space to split operations so they’re not so crammed.
Most of the team is thriving with the change. But Geoff seems withdrawn, not like himself and for the first time ever, he’s had a complaint about his behaviour. Raul has also noticed some of his workers, like Sam, are taking opportunities to slack off.
Raul is flat out, but he knows checking in with staff and making sure everything is ok makes for better workers. When he talks to staff he finds a few have been feeling really stressed about the shift arrangements (Geoff later confides that he’s not sleeping well because of the stress) and others are struggling to adapt to new procedures and products, especially workers in the new work space.
Raul considers whether it is reasonably practicable to cut back operations to a single shift and smaller staff numbers. But that would mean his new operation isn’t viable and staff would lose jobs. He looks for other control measures that are less costly and more proportionate to the risk of psychological injury to his workers.
He talks to staff about the shifts arrangements and they have good ideas to make it work and fit in with other commitments such as caring responsibilities. This significantly reduces their stress from shift arrangements.
Raul implements several other control measures to manage the risk to workers mental health. He redesigns some work processes to make sure junior staff are supported by experienced staff at both sites, and hires a few extra hands to reduce work pressure on experienced staff. He temporarily stops taking orders for the less profitable aspects of the business.
Raul realises that Sam’s slacking off was actually him being distracted due to the stress of having a sick relative which has exacerbated a pre-existing mental health condition. Dealing with this isn’t part of Raul’s WHS duties, but it’s good business sense and the right thing to try to help. Raul gives Sam some publicly available resources about support services and Sam responds well to the supportive approach and shows a renewed commitment to work.