Like any other Work Health & Safety Risk Assessment, a COVID-19 Risk Assessment will follow the same steps.  There are additional elements due to this pandemic’s contagious and evolving nature.  All of these elements will be individual to each particular business.  We recommend viewing the Safe Work Australia website if you are unsure about the requirements and suggestions for your specific industry.

An Active OHS Risk Assessment will:

  • Identify hazards—find out what could cause harm.
  • Assess Risks —understand the harm that the hazard could cause, how serious it could be and the likelihood of it happening.
  • Control Risks – implement effective control measures for certain circumstances and ensure it remains effective over time.
  • Review – hazards and control measures to ensure they are working as planned. Then consult and act accordingly.

This implementation will usually occur after a gap analysis to identify these hazards.  An Active OHS consultant will then have an estimated timeframe to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment.

Critical considerations for undertaking a COVID Risk assessment include the location, size, employee demographic and character of your workplace.  Consultation with your workers will be required throughout the process; therefore, it is best to bring your WHS specialist in for a planning session to understand the business prior to commencing.

An excellent place to start planning and formulating a risk assessment is with this example from Safe Work Australia (link below).  The standard of a retail business is given; this may encourage a small business to perform their risk assessment in house and continue to review it themselves.  In some cases, this may be appropriate, but it is best to hire an experienced WHS consultant to outsource this task, especially in medium to large businesses.

If an inspector investigates your business and the correct protocols have not been adhered to, you may have a timeframe to rectify this, or significant fines could apply.

Some risks will be completely unexpected and can only be picked up by monitoring the work environment consistently.  In a very brief example, a COVID-19 risk register should cover:

What are the hazards?

  • COVID-19 and its complications.

What harm could it cause someone, and how likely is it?

  • Staff or customers could catch COVID and become seriously ill or die, increase the spread of the virus and infect others.
  • The risk from customer aggression, high work demand, working in isolation.

What is the level of risk and likelihood it could occur?

  • Dependent on the specific nature of the industry.

What Control strategies are in place?

  • The bulk of the content should be here, describing plans to sanitise, distance and manage all operations and factors. There must be detail.

How will it be monitored and reviewed to ensure it is working

  • Consultation plans and dates.

Active Tip:  The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing; therefore, the risk assessment needs to be continuously reviewed, essentially more than most other risk assessments.  

Noting any vulnerable workers is especially important for COVID-19, then removing a worker from face to face contact with customers and doing whatever else is possible.  Simply sending them on a workplace absence must be avoided as this will create a host of new issues as well.  It is a delicate balancing act with a WHS specialist who will be able to guide you through.