Business guide to Coronavirus

COVID-19 risk assessments

Businesses may be in full swing compiling COVID-19 safety plans and risk assessments based on state lockdowns to keep employees and customers safe. Each state has slightly different guidance on what is required to have a COVID safe business. So how does a business assess and control coronavirus risk?

Some business operations are restricted under state or territory government public health directions. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your state or territory government website

The exposure of your workers and/or customers/clients to COVID-19 is a foreseeable risk that must be assessed and managed in the context of your operating environment. 

What is a risk assessment?

Risk management is the four-step process used to identify hazards, assess the risk of the hazard and the risk level, put controls in place and conduct ongoing reviews. Safe Work Australia (SWA) has a COVID-19 risk register to easily keep track of this.

Ongoing management of workplace health and safety risks (WHS) will either eliminate or minimise the risks to people and ensure a safe working environment. 

Exposure of workers to COVID-19 risk

The exposure of your workers and/or customers/clients to COVID-19 is a foreseeable risk that must be assessed and managed in the context of your operating environment. 

A risk assessment will assist to: 

  • identify which workers are at risk of exposure 
  • determine what sources and processes are causing the risk 
  • identify if and what kind of control measures should be implemented, and 
  • check the effectiveness of existing control measures. 

When does a business need to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment? 

All businesses that are currently operating or looking to reopen must assess the risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 and implement control measures to manage those risks. 

They must also assess any other new or changed risks arising from COVID-19, such as customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation. 

Some examples of when a business may need to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment are: 

  • changing work practices, procedures or the work environment 
  • recommencing operations following a shut down 
  • increasing operations following a period of reduced operations 
  • introducing workers back into the workplace, after ending working from home or stand-down arrangements 
  • responding to workplace incidents such as a worker testing positive to COVID-19
  • responding to concerns raised by workers, health and safety representatives, or others at the workplace. 

Free COVIDSAFE Plan template

As COVID-19 restrictions are eased and employees around the country return to work, businesses continue to play a vital role in keeping the pandemic under control. Part of that is creating a COVIDSafe plan for your business.

Does your business have a COVIDSafe plan in place? Get started with our free three-step template.

Already a member? Get started

Vulnerable workers

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) clarified who vulnerable workers are in the workplace to ensure risks are addressed which is supported by SWA. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated considering the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. 

Some risk plans may include vulnerable people being redeployed to roles that don’t involve physical contact with customers, where possible. In the event a risk can’t be mitigated effectively, alternative options need to be considered including a workplace absence. 

Risk assessments should be reviewed periodically as the operating environment changes. Pre-coronavirus, it may have been business practice to review risks quarterly.

Whereas now, changes in work practice, employee coronavirus exposure, new workplace risks or public health orders are occurring regularly. This will require businesses to conduct risk assessments more frequently. 

Business must also take time to review risk actions and outcomes to ensure they met the desired outcome based on the latest information.

This may be a concern for businesses that want to make sure they have done everything they can to be safe and to avoid breaching WHS duties. 

Essentially, a business needs to demonstrate that they have considered all matters that could impact the health and safety of all people. SWA has an extensive checklist as well as workplace checklist to help with the key considerations as a starting point. 

The bottom line is that businesses may find themselves conducting more frequent risk management processes during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the health and safety of all people. 

A company will meet their WHS duty of care by conducting risk management that considers all business and workplace risks including workers personal circumstances, particularly vulnerable workers.

Siobhann Provost

Senior Writer, My Business

Siobhann has over 18 years human resources business partnering experience in large organisations. She more recently established and led a people advice team of senior workplace advisors before moving into content writing.


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