Covid-19 update – easing restrictions state by state, 10 Covid-19 safe workplace principles

Businesses are breathing a sigh of relief following the government’s plans to ease restrictions as the economy prepares to move from crisis to recovery.

Restaurants, cafes, and shops are open as part of stage one, with gyms, cinemas, and beauty reopening in stage two and food courts reopening in stage three.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says this roadmap will provide retailers with the confidence to reopen and a framework for anticipating when the Australian economy will return to full operation.

"Retail is Australia's largest private employer, with more than 1.3 million people, or almost 10 per cent of the workforce, working in 135,000 businesses across the country,” he says. “It contributes $325 billion to the national economy.

"The safety of customers and staff is our top priority, and retailers are making every effort to prepare a safe in-store environment and abide by restrictions specific to each state and territory. Shoppers can expect the continuation of measures such as social distancing, limited numbers in stores and increased hygiene and cleaning. These will be a regular feature for some time and will require extra patience and sensitivity from retail staff and customers,"

The government’s three-stage plan will be reviewed every three weeks from now to July, for reopening Australian businesses as the coronavirus pandemic eases. However, each state is following its own guidelines when it comes to Covid-19 rules and restrictions.

ACT: Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced an ease on restrictions in the ACT on Friday, 8 May, allowing gatherings of up to 10 people in indoor or outdoor settings. Cafes and restaurants will remain closed for all dine-in customers.

NSW: Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on 15 May NSW will further ease Covid-19 restrictions including public gatherings of up to 10 people; food and drink premises can open, but only to seat a maximum of 10 customers at any one time; up to five visitors may visit another household at any one time.

QLD: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk moved to stage 1 from 11.59pm on Friday15 May and will move to stage 2 from 11.59pm on Friday 12 June and stage 3 likely Friday 10 July. Stage 1 will permit a gathering of max 10 people in a public space.

VIC: Premier Daniel Andrews announced Victorians will be able to host up to five visitors in their homes and meet outdoors in groups of 10 from Wednesday, under the state's first relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. Restaurants and cafes remain restricted to only takeaway business only.

SA: Premier Steven Marshall announced they will begin to re-open, with Stage 1 commencing today, 11 May and Stage 2 on Monday, 8 June. See SA roadmap here.

WA: The McGowan Government has released a roadmap to carefully ease Covid-19 restrictions, to start getting Western Australians back to work safely and begin the process of re-starting the state's economy. See the WA roadmap here. Stage 1 was implemented on 27 April and stage 2 on 18 May including cafes and restaurants can have meal service for up to 20 people, Western Australians are encouraged to return to work and regional travel is allowed.

TAS: Premier Peter Gutwein announced stage 1 began 11 May and increased the number of people allowed to attend funerals from 10 to 20. From 18 May, public gatherings increased to 10 people except for households, which is capped at five people.

NT: Some indoor activities are allowed as long as they take less than two hours e.g. going to the gym, eating at a cafe or restaurant. From 5 June, all businesses will be allowed to reopen as long as they have a Covid-19 plan.

National Covid-19 safe workplace principles

Safe Work Australia recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic is a public health emergency, that all actions in respect of Covid-19 should be founded in expert health advice and that the following principles operate subject to the measures agreed and implemented by governments through the National Cabinet process:

1 All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.

2 The Covid-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to work health and safety (WHS) as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.

3 To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must, in consultation with workers, and their representatives, assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.

4 As Covid-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.

5 Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of Covid-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.

6 Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of Covid-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, and consistent with advice from health authorities.

7 Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging that individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, to ensure business and worker confidence, a commitment to a consistent national approach is key. This includes a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by Covid-19.

8 Safe Work Australia (SWA), through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by Covid-19.

9 States and Territories ultimately have the role of providing advice, education, compliance and enforcement of WHS and will leverage the use of the SWA central hub in fulfilling their statutory functions.

10 The work of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission will complement the work of SWA, jurisdictions and health authorities to support industries more broadly to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic appropriately, effectively and safely.