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UpdatesOct 17, 2021

Navigating interaction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated

As we move closer to full re-opening in some states, the challenge for those businesses will be how to safely reopen. For all businesses across Australia, even those not under lockdown, the key issue that is emerging is the impact on safety, if any, of the interaction between unvaccinated workers and visitors.

Public health orders

For those business that are currently subject to public health orders, the issue is largely out of their hands for the duration of the operation of the order. Those orders variously require businesses to ensure that unvaccinated workers and visitors (other than those with a medical exemption) do not attend the workplace – either across all businesses (such as in NSW) or for various roles (as in Victoria and the Northern Territory). The Northern Territory announced this week a vaccine mandate covering all public-facing roles, including those likely to come into contact with a vulnerable person.

Up until now, businesses, particularly in COVID-19-affected areas of Australia, have been able to rely on the expert medical health advice of the government health departments that underpin these orders. As the nation moves to re-opening due to hitting vaccination targets, however, the medical advice as to the integration of the vaccinated and unvaccinated public seems unclear. On the one hand, businesses are currently under stringent orders not to allow unvaccinated workers to the workplace. Then, it appears, after a nominated date, unimpeded mixing of the population will be allowed in mainstream areas of life such as pubs, schools and restaurants.

So, what does this mean going forwards if the orders do not restrict interaction between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers and visitors? Does this mean your business should also allow all unvaccinated workers and visitors to your worksite?

Workplace-specific risk assessments

The obligation to ensure safety at the workplace is the responsibility of the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). But what information should your business rely on in coming to a view on whether it should allow all unvaccinated workers and visitors to your worksite? As with the decision about whether to mandate vaccinations, the considerations in this type of risk assessment are very similar.

In essence, your business needs to undertake a risk assessment of the transmission of COVID-19 at the workplace, importantly noting the level of vaccination within your workforce at the time of re-opening and any available medical advice (either government or independent) that applies to your industry and workforce.

Putting aside whether the government has mandated your workforce be vaccinated, the risk assessment factors that should be taken into account include whether:

Other factors that may be taken into consideration in the risk assessment include whether:

Colin Imms MAHRI
Pending moderation
7 months ago
Colin Imms MAHRI

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