Mental health safety during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As an employer, you are responsible for managing the risks to both the physical and mental health of you and your employees. Read the below information on how you can best support your workplace.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and employer responsibilities

Employers must identify whether there is a risk to health of employees from exposure to coronavirus at their workplace. Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or reduce the risk.

Planning during the pandemic: Information for employers

As an employer Under the OHS Act, you must take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of your employees at work. Incorporate employee health and safety into your business continuity planning for pandemic.

This includes both physical and mental safety of the workplace.

To follow good OHS practice in planning for a pandemic, you must:

  1. keep informed and up to date on coronavirus (COVID-19) information through DHHS website
    1. educate and keep employees up to date
      1. manage the direct and indirect risks
        1. incorporate OHS preparations and risk control measures into a business continuity plan
          1. review and evaluate risk control measures
            1. plan and manage the recovery phase of a pandemic

              Flexible working arrangements

              Organisations and employers should take action now to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

              If your staff can work from home, they must work from home. If your staff can't work from home, you should encourage flexible working arrangements, including off-peak travel.

              This will help reduce the risk of individual employees' exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) and the risk of transmission at the workplace through face to face contact.

              Working alone, remotely or in isolation

              For your employees who work alone, remotely or in isolation, including those who now work from home, consider the effects of this work arrangement on their physical and mental health.

              People who work alone or in isolation face different levels of risk compared to other employees. They may be unable to access immediate assistance from team members or emergency services due to the location, time and type of work they are doing.

              Working alone or in isolation can also have a negative effect on mental health. A lack of social contact, particularly over an extended period, may lead to anxiety, lack of motivation and loss of involvement in decision-making within the organisation.

              Healthcare and social assistance industry

              Employees in the healthcare and social assistance industry have a higher risk of being exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). This is because they are more likely to come into close contact with patients and clients in facilities and in people's homes and work in high-traffic environments.

              Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and does not risk the health of employees. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

              Construction industry

              Employees in the construction industry work closely with others and there is potential for them to touch potentially contaminated surfaces. This means steps must be taken to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

              Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and does not risk the health of employees. This includes preventing, and where prevention is not possible, reducing, risks to health and safety associated with potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

              Related pages

              Retail and hospitality industry

              Employees in the retail and hospitality industry work closely with others, and there is potential for them to touch potentially contaminated surfaces. This means steps must be taken to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

              Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and does not risk the health of employees.

              This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

              Employees should practice physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres to reduce person-to-person contact.

              Consult with your staff

              As an employer, it's part of your OHS obligations to involve your employees in health and safety issues, resulting in safer workplace. You get input on hazards, risks and solutions from people who understand and do the work. Being involved in making decisions can give people a stronger commitment to implementing them. Communicating on health and safety can also build co-operation and trust between employers and employees. Check out the video to learn more.

              Consultation - an employer's responsibility

              As a Victorian employer, consultation is always your responsibility. It is an ongoing requirement that is as important as ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consultation means giving staff the chance to shape the health and safety decisions made in the workplace.

              To create a mentally healthy workplace, sign up to the WorkWell Toolkit