Managing agriculture workplace health and safety concerns
Queensland depends on its farmers and producers, and keeping these industries strong during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a key priority.
Restrictions or shutdowns of non-essential activities are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19; however, primary production is an essential service and can continue to operate through adherence to impact-mitigation measures.
The situation is changing rapidly and we urge you to regularly check this content and covid19.qld.gov.au for the latest updates.
COVID-19 workplace health and safety resources
- Safe Food Queensland, together with the agricultural industries and Queensland Health, has developed a guideline for agricultural, horticultural operations and meat and livestock processing operations to help businesses frame and understand the risks in their workforce.
- Workcover Queensland also provides information on workplace risk management and COVID-19, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and workers' compensation.
- The Department of Home Affairs has translated a range of COVID-19 information and resources into a variety of languages.
- Safe Work Australia has released a comprehensive toolkit to assist employers prepare their workplaces and workers for COVID-19. The toolkit covers topics including health and hygiene, working from home and mental health, as well the legal aspects of keeping a business up and running during the current pandemic.
How to proactively protect your workforce
The agriculture industry has a collective responsibility to put in place good practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
- Make sure all staff understand the requirement to not work when sick, and educate them on exclusion and self-isolation.
- Provide fact sheets, resources and posters to educate staff about COVID-19 and what it means for them.
Practice social distancing or change work practices
- Maximise distance between employees, especially where close contact is not necessary. Keep a minimum distance of 1.5m between employees if possible.
- Where social distancing is not possible for all employees, options include:
- limiting contact between workers to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the impact on businesses that have a staff member positive for COVID-19. For more guidance, read the Australian Government Department of Health's social distancing for coronavirus
- increasing the time between shifts or service periods (e.g. breakfast and lunch, day/night shifts) to minimise staff interaction and allow more time for cleaning
- limiting the number of people in contact on a production floor or kitchen, where possible, and minimising the overlap of shifts/rosters as much as possible
- scheduling the same people to stand or work next to one another each day in production areas or within staff teams. This will limit the spread of COVID-19 between staff should infection occur.
Promote good hand hygiene
- Proper hand washing is one of the most effective tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Encourage regular and effective hand washing by setting up extra hand washing and sanitising stations. Ensure everyone reads the Department of Health's hand washing guidelines. Remember, soap and water is as effective as commercial sanitiser.
Consider environmental cleaning procedures
- The length of time COVID-19 survives on objects and surfaces varies. Frequently touched surfaces, including handrails and doors as well as amenities including kitchens, lunch rooms, common areas, change rooms, toilets, showers, drink fountains and vending machines should be regularly wiped and cleaned using detergent or disinfectant solutions.
Review entry points and outside interaction to optimise social distancing
- Use customer control methods to meet social distancing requirements; for example, use signs to control entry into the factory floor, and ensure visitors or suppliers who need to attend your workplace are informed of what's expected of them.
Review staff roles and points of contact
- Restrict face-to-face meetings as much as possible. Keep any meeting to less than 15 minutes. Identify what roles or areas within a business may be able to work from home or away from other staff. Avoid staff congregating in car parks or other common areas after their shift.
Request staff get a flu shot
- A flu shot will not protect workers from COVID-19, but it will help reduce any combined impact of seasonal influenza and COVID-19 on staffing and production.
Communicate with staff
- The scale of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Check in with staff on a regular basis to review their welfare and address any concerns as quickly as possible.
- Encourage staff to be open about symptoms and express any concerns around personal circumstances if they need to go into quarantine, including job security. There is a risk they may continue to work while infectious if they believe their job security is threatened.
Sign up and use the coronavirus contact tracing app
- The COVIDSafe app is a powerful tool in our fight against COVID-19. When you sign up for the COVIDSafe app, you'll be notified if you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. Data from the app will not be accessible without your consent and the app collects minimal information. Find out how the COVIDSafe app works and talk to your staff about the benefits for your workplace
- Last reviewed: 3 Apr 2020
- Last updated: 30 Apr 2020