A new guide for the horticulture industry will ensure it can maintain production during the COVID-19 pandemic and keep risks to workers at a minimum. The guide has practical tips and advice for keeping workplaces safe, as well as information on the duties of employers under Queensland work health and safety laws.
During the health crisis, employers must take action to implement the directions issued by the Chief Health Officer. They must consult with workers, health and safety representatives, and other organisations such as labour hire providers or backpacker hostels, on measures to address COVID-19 risks. To help employers do this, the guide includes commonsense strategies to help remain productive while protecting their workers.
Practical tips include limiting access to packing sheds and maintenance areas so only those who work in those areas can enter; maintaining physical separation and minimising crew sizes and staggering start and finish times, as well as mealtimes and breaks to limit the number of workers congregating in one area.
Other advice includes placing furniture in break rooms at least 1.5 metres apart, supplying extra shade areas in the field so workers can spread out and considering what can be done off-site, such as administrative work from home.
Workers on packing and sorting lines should be separated from customers and other workers using barriers, screens or by placing social distancing markers on the floor. As a higher order control, consideration should be given to what produce can be packed in the field.
Workers too are reminded to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and the health and the safety of other people in their workplace, co-operating with any reasonable policy or procedure that relates to health or safety at the workplace.
The guide highlights the duty of employers to train and supervise workers on measures to address COVID-19 risks and to report and notify cases if there is a confirmed infection.
Where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a workplace, Queensland Health will be notified by the medical professional who confirms the diagnosis. However, in line with notifiable incident requirements, employers must also notify Workplace Health and Safety Queensland that the case has been confirmed at their workplace.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland will respond to all requests for advice or assistance on COVID-19 related matters and inspectors will continue to ensure businesses are complying with requirements to prevent exposure to unacceptable health and safety risks.