Case Study – Risk Assessments
Chandran manages a local mixed business selling specialty herbs and spices, grocery and fresh vegetables. He has been asked to do a risk assessment to make sure the business is addressing COVID-19 risks.
Chandran understands the business has duties under WHS laws to keep its workers and customers safe. He looks at the Safe Work Australia, state’s WHS regulator and health department websites for information on what the risks from COVID-19 might be and what they can do to manage those risks at the shop.
From this information he creates a list to carry out his risk assessment, which includes:
- identifying the risks—in this case, workers and customers contracting COVID-19 at the shop
- determining how severe the risk is—that is, what could happen if a person contracts COVID-19
- whether any existing control measures at the shop are effective—such as their usual cleaning routines and hygiene practices
- what action should be taken to control the risk—that is, what else should the shop do to ensure workers and customers are not exposed to COVID-19, so far as is reasonably practicable, and
- how urgently the action needs to be taken.
Chandran knows he must consult workers on health and safety matters and at the next staff meeting he asks the other workers for their ideas. Workers identify one new risk Chandran hadn’t thought of (the metal scoop customers use to self-serve dried lentils and pulses is currently touched by multiple customers in a day, and the staff member suggests during the pandemic they should actually pre-bag and price 500g and 1kg bags) and a more effective control measure for another (using gloves while handling produce and restocking, where possible).
Chandran updates the risk assessment with their suggestions and hands a copy out to each worker so they can see what needs to be done, the new procedures at the store and what each worker is responsible for.
He prints out a copy of the risk assessment and sticks it on the microwave door. He also sets himself a reminder on his phone to do a weekly spot check at the shop to ensure the controls are working effectively and to review the risk assessment in two weeks’ time.
Case Study – Physical Distancing
Khalil owns a small clothing boutique that features up and coming local designers. He has been working with his retail staff to limit the physical proximity between his workers and customers. To comply with mandatory physical distancing requirements, Khalil has calculated the retail floor space and set an upper limit on the number of customers and others who may enter the boutique, taking into account his retail staff. He has repositioned the clothing racks to ensure his staff and customers can comfortably walk around the shop while remaining a minimum of 1.5 metres apart at all times.
During their daily catch-ups, one of his retail staff suggested they create a ‘red carpet’ queue outside the shop. Khalil readily adopted this idea, which is both on brand and ensures appropriate physical distancing. Everyone agrees it is appropriate to postpone private members’ showings of new designs to reduce staff contact with customers.
During this same catch-up, Khalil reminds staff that they must practice good hygiene, including washing their hands, using tissues and hand sanitiser. Khalil lets his staff know that the washroom facilities are properly stocked with supplies of soap, water and toilet paper.
Khalil has increased cleaning and disinfection in the boutique. For example, regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, including counters, handrails, doors, till, phones, keyboards and EFTPOS facilities using appropriate detergent solutions where possible. He has also implemented protocols to ensure workers’ personal items, such as glasses and phones, are cleaned and ideally disinfected frequently using isopropyl alcohol wipes.
Deliveries of new stock are important to Khalil’s business. Khalil provides clear instructions to his suppliers about new protocols, asking drivers to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods to communicate and pay for deliveries.
Khalil reminds staff that they must not come to work if they are unwell or display symptoms like fever, coughing, a sore throat and shortness of breath. He asks staff to call him if they are unwell and to seek medical advice. He also reminds staff they can discuss any concerns about their health and safety with him at any time and tells them about the support services they can access.
Case Study – Masks
Renata runs an independent supermarket and has already introduced a number of measures to help protect her staff from COVID-19, including regular hand washing and physical distancing between workers and customers.
One of the workers asks that Renata provide masks for them to wear. Renata talks to the worker about their concerns to understand why they want to wear a mask and asks other workers for their feedback as well. Workers say they are worried about contracting COVID-19 from customers, particularly as customers don’t usually adhere to physical distancing when they ask workers for help in the store.
Renata considers whether masks are appropriate to minimise the risk of her staff being exposed to COVID-19 from customers and what she can do to address her workers’ concerns. Renata checks the government’s current health advice and learns that masks are helpful for people who have COVID-19 (so they do not infect others) or those who work in close contact with sick people (such as healthcare workers), but it is not necessary for everyone to wear a mask. In discussions with her workers, Renata reviews the control measures already in place to protect her workers and decides that masks are unlikely to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at her supermarket. However, Renata believes she can do more by putting signs around the store asking customers to see the staff behind the counters (who are behind Perspex screens) if they need any assistance and to not approach workers in the aisles. Workers are also given badges to wear which say “thank you for staying 1.5m away”. Some posters also show a picture of a trolley and say “Please keep one trolley's length between each other to help maintain the 1.5 metre rule”.
Renata also understands that her workers are anxious and some have their own masks that they wish to wear. She agrees to workers wearing their own masks if they choose to, as they will still able to carry out their work while wearing a mask.
Renata sends an email to all of her workers explaining her decision. In this email she reminds staff of the steps they should be taking to reduce the risk of COVID-19. She lets them know that she has provided special bins to dispose of used masks and has put up a poster next to the hand washing station showing her workers how to best put on and remove a mask. She also reminds her workers that they can come and talk to her if they have any questions or concerns about their health and safety at work.
Case Study – Work-related Violence
Ann is the pharmacist and owner of a small pharmacy in a suburban shopping centre which employs four workers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ann has thought about what is reasonably able to be done to ensure the health and safety of her workers, customers and other people who visit the pharmacy. Ann knows that her business is providing an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is not practical to temporarily close the business or ask her workers to work from home.
Ann was told by one of her workers that a customer became aggressive and verbally abusive in the store when they were told the medicine they wanted was out of stock, and the staff member did not know when more stock was expected to arrive. Ann determined that the likelihood of this behaviour happening again was high due to stock shortages across the country, and aggressive behaviour may escalate to violence causing harm to her workers.
Ann considered the control measures already in place to manage violence at the workplace, which included video surveillance and a duress alarm behind the counter. Ann then thought about what other control measures should be put in place to manage the greater likelihood of aggressive behaviour at the workplace and the risk of it escalating to violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also held discussions with her staff to better understand the risk and to get their input into ideas for dealing with that risk.
After assessing the risks and the available ways to manage those risks, she decided it was not reasonably practicable to significantly increase security measures such as hiring security personnel in store. As reported incidents of aggressive behaviour were very low and the pharmacy was closed at night when the risk of incidents occurring would be greater (as there are fewer people in the workplace), the cost of hiring a security guard was considered to be disproportionate to the risk. Instead, Ann implemented several other controls to support the control measures already in place to reduce the likelihood of incidents occurring and causing harm to her workers. Those other control measures included putting up screens at counters, ensuring workers did not work alone, using signage to inform customers about limitations on products and appropriate conduct in store, and providing staff training on dealing with aggressive behaviour.
Case Study – Risk Assessments
William owns a bicycle retail and repair shop which has seen an increase in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a busier store and higher demand for bikes and repairs, William considers the measures that he needs to put in place to meet public health requirements and how he can lower the risk of COVID-19 at the store.
William decides it is not reasonably practicable for his 10 employees to work from home as they are all involved in sales and repairs, which must be done at the premises. He looks through the COVID-19 resource kit on the Safe Work Australia website and identifies the control measures that are relevant to his business. This includes physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene practices and policies for employees who show symptoms of COVID-19.
The business regularly holds events to allow customers to test ride their range of bikes, with attendance of up to 20 people. William understands that these events pose a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 and do not meet the new rules for public gatherings, so immediately cancels these activities.
The business also allows customers to take bikes from the store for test rides. William is aware that it is possible for the COVID-19 virus to be on different surfaces for periods of time and this may result in transmission. It is difficult to disinfect bikes after each customer use due to cleaning products potentially contaminating and damaging parts of the bike.
William weighs up the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission from test rides and how to eliminate or minimise the risk of that happening, including measures like ceasing test rides or regularly disinfecting bikes. He then considers the suitability of those measures against their cost.
William decides the best way to minimise the risk is to temporarily limit the number of customer test rides. He clearly communicates this new practice to customers through his website and using signage at the store. William considers that this may result in a decline in sales but knows that this is necessary to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. William will still ensure that his employees disinfect bikes after each customer use but by limiting the number of test rides it will reduce the potential damage to his stock from disinfecting practices and save on cleaning costs and staff time.
Case Study – Mental Health
Greg owns a small printing company. His staff are responsible for the sales work, as well as printing the products ordered by his clients. They only have a small number of staff in the business and the shop has been busy with people ordering COVID-19 posters and other materials for their workplaces. One of his employees, Manuel, has been away with a confirmed case of COVID-19 contracted from a family member returning from overseas.
Manuel has recovered from COVID-19 and has been looking forward to returning to work. Manuel has provided medical certification from his general practitioner that he is fit for work but would benefit from reduced hours for the first two weeks so he can build his strength back up. Greg has checked the latest advice by contacting his State’s health helpline to ensure it is safe for Manuel to return to work.
Greg knows clear, timely and consistent communication is important in helping staff return to work. In the week before Manuel’s first day back, he called Manuel to discuss the changes to his working hours for the first two weeks, what is expected of him back at work and the new measures at the workplace for managing the risk of COVID-19 which all workers must follow. This puts Manuel at ease as he prepares to settle back in.
Greg is also conscious that there could be stigma because Manuel had COVID-19. As Manuel is happy for people at work to know he had COVID-19, Greg calls a staff meeting to let them know that Manuel is returning to work and it is safe for him to do so. Greg also invites workers to discuss, in private, any concerns they may have.
After many warm greetings from all the staff on Monday morning to welcome Manuel back to the shop, Greg checks in with Manuel to see if he has any questions or concerns. Greg provides material to Manuel outlining the workplace policies and procedures that have been updated in response to COVID-19, including new cleaning and hygiene measures and physical distancing requirements. The material also includes contact details for the Employee Assistance Program and other support services to help Manuel transition back into the workplace.
This information helps Manuel adapt to the many changes in the shop and feel confident in returning to his daily tasks. They agree to check in again on Wednesday to see how Manuel is settling back in and whether any further adjustments to his working arrangements are needed.
Note: If a worker with a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 is returning to work, the employer should contact their relevant workers’ compensation authority for advice on their particular circumstances. Details of the relevant workers’ compensation authority are available on our website.
Case Study – Workers' Compensation
Marsha runs a small hairdressing salon and employs five staff. One morning she receives a phone call from one of her workers, James, who explains he is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. James thinks that he may have contracted COVID-19 while cutting Maria’s hair, a regular client who just tested positive for COVID-19.
Marsha contacts her State’s health helpline and Work Health and Safety regulator for advice on what she should do to reduce the risk of exposure to her workers and clients.
James is tested and confirmed to have COVID-19 and is receiving treatment. As it is possible that James contracted COVID-19 at work, he may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Marsha checks her workers’ compensation policy and workers’ compensation authority website to understand what actions she must take, notifies her insurer/authority and seeks further advice on her specific circumstances.
Marsha provides James with information on the workers’ compensation process and the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, and they work together to lodge his workers’ compensation claim. His claim is accepted, as it meets the eligibility criteria of their workers’ compensation scheme. James talks to his doctor about what he can do to ensure he returns to full health as quickly as possible and keeps Marsha updated on his progress.
Marsha keeps in touch with her insurer/authority as needed, to ensure James is being supported and that she is doing what she needs to do during the workers’ compensation process.
James makes a full recovery and has medical clearance to go back to work. Marsha checks in with James regularly to help him transition back into work and make sure he is doing OK.
Note: Workers’ compensation arrangements differ across jurisdictions, however generally to be eligible for compensation a worker would need to:
- be covered by your workers’ compensation scheme, either as an employee or a deemed worker,
- have contracted the COVID-19 virus out of or in the course of their employment.
Workers’ compensation authorities across the jurisdictions can provide additional information for employers and their workers, and advice on your particular circumstances.
This case study was prepared by SafeWork NSW and provides practical examples of managing health and safety for COVID-19 in a metropolitan grocery/retail outlet with frequent people turnover through the store
I am a manager or worker within a busy grocery/retail outlet what can I do?
Specific employer actions
- Manage customer numbers and queues have plans and systems in place to monitor and control the numbers of customers in the workplace at any given time.
- Provide hand sanitiser at ample locations throughout store.
- Clean surfaces thoroughly all high contact areas such as doors, handles, point of sale devices, counters and displays, kiosks, trolleys, lifts, with appropriate cleaning agents.
- Place reminders and cues about precautions around the store, for social distancing, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze behaviour. Use posters, floor markings to provide the key message.
- Consider physical, distance or other engineering controls to protect staff and customers at social interaction points.
- Encourage cashless transactions such as tap and go, to reduce contact.
General advice for workers, customers and others
- Consult, educate and support your workers. About infection control measures to prevent spreading the virus and their health and safety.
- Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose with unwashed (or gloved) hands.
- Clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water, or alcohol based hand rub.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow. Put tissues in the bin.
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Social distancing maintain a 1.5 metre distance to others (two arms length).
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Seek medical advice if you have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath (call your doctor or healthdirect on 1800 022 222).