VIC Health has released a new Exposure Response Framework that bring welcome clarity to businesses and individuals on the vital question of how exposures to COVID-19 infected persons will be managed moving forward.  This Framework is something that ACAPMA has been actively working on with Health and represents a significant step towards ensuring that once the economy opens, it can stay opens.  Like all things there are still elements to be addressed, but a risk matrix approach that recognises the risk mitigation impacts of short exposure, masks and vaccination is a welcome step forward.

The Exposure Response Framework details how Health will classify persons who are exposed to an infected person, namely what will determine if they are a Close Contact (UNVACCINATED), Close Contact (VACCINATED)* or Low Risk Contact.

* Non Household Contact – Household contacts must isolate for 14 days regardless of vaccination status

What’s new in the Framework?
Risk controls, including masks, space and importantly vaccination is now taken into account in deciding if a contact was close or low risk.

What’s missing from the Framework?
The Framework is complete, but it should be noted that Health may also adjust the isolation requirements.

What does it mean for fuel wholesale and retail?
That potential for change is worth remembering, but for now it is clear that for most fuel retail and transport staff, as long as the staff are vaccinated and wearing their masks, usual contact with an infected customers in the normal course of business, will most likely result in the employee being deemed to be Low Risk Contact which means that if exposed they will be required to monitor for symptoms and get a PCR test if they develop and symptoms, but will not be required to isolate.

How does the Framework work?
When there is an exposure to an infected person then the Framework will be used to determine if the exposed person is a Close Contact (UNVACCINATED), Close Contact (VACCINATED)* or Low Risk Contact.

To determine the level of contact a series of questions will need to be asked and answered.  Some of these questions are about the exposure itself (time, distance and location), some are about control measures (masks) and some about the exposed person themselves (vaccination) .

The first question is;  What Risk Scenario applies – see below for the exploration of Risk Scenarios

Armed with the appropriate Risk Scenario, the second question is; Was the exposed person fully vaccinated?  In this case fully vaccinated means it has been 14 days since their second dose of vaccine, that will lead to an assessment of the level of contact

 Exposure Response Framework|
The Framework is a risk matrix that provides for a variety of situations and can be expressed as a series of questions and responses.  Businesses simply answer each question and then move to the next until they have an answer.

 As noted what is required from each type of contact is subject to current review, but for now the requirements are;

  • Close Contact (UNVACCINATED) – get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result, test on day 13 and leave isolation on day 14 if result is negative and you feel well
  • Close Contact (VACCINATED)* – get tested and isolated for 7 days regardless of the result, test on day 6 and leave isolation on day 7 if result is negative and you feel well
  • Low Risk Contact – monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms appear

* Non Household Contact – Household contacts must isolate for 14 days regardless of vaccination status

See table below for the assessment that will be used.

It is noted that in most fuel retail environments if the exposed person is FULLY VACCINATED, masks are worn and distance is kept they will likely be assessed as being a Low Risk Contact who will just need to monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms appear, whereas if the exposed person is UNVACCINATED, or mask use and distancing is lax, they will likely be assessed as being a Close Contact and will need to get tested and isolate for 7-14 days.  The actual assessment will be done based on actual exposure.

Exposure Response Table as per VIC Health;

Examples

Application of the Framework to real examples makes this process clearer.

Example 1 – vaccinated staff exposed to infected customer – 1-15 minute exposure
Krystal is a console operator in a retail fuel site, and one of her customers tests positive for COVID-19.  Krystal is now an exposed person.

  1. The first question is was this a High, Medium or Low Risk Scenario, so the question is; Did the exposed person come close (less than 1.5m) to the infected person?  The answer in this case is No.  Due to the width of the counter Krystal is more than 1.5m away from customers at all times, including the infected person.
  2. The next item to consider is the size of the space that the exposure happened in;  Was the indoor space a) very small (less than 30sqm), b) small (less than 100sqm), c) medium (100-300sqm) or d) large (more than 300sqm)?  The answer in this case is less than 100sqm.
  3. The next item to consider is the length of exposure so the next question is about the length of exposure (time exposed; Was the exposure a) less than a minute, b) 1-15 minutes or c) more than 15 minutes?  The answer in this case is b) 1-15 minutes
  4. The next question is about the exposed persons vaccination status;  Is Krystal fully vaccinated?  The answer in this case is Yes
  5. So we have; Exposure to an infected person at a distance (point 1) in a small space (point 2) of a short duration (point 3) – which means that it is a Medium Risk Scenario.  As Krystal is vaccinated (point 4) we need to look at if there were masks worn
  6. The last thing to consider is if masks were worn.  In this case the answer is yes
  7. A Medium Risk Scenario, where the exposed person is vaccinated and wearing a mask gives an answer of Low Risk Contact , as such Krystal will need to monitor for symptoms and if symptoms appear she will need to get tested.

Example 2 – unvaccinated staff exposed to infected customer – less than a minute exposure
Darren is a console operator in a retail fuel site, and one of his customers tests positive for COVID-19.  Darren is now an exposed person.

  1. The first question is was this a High, Medium or Low Risk Scenario, so the question is; Did the exposed person come close (less than 1.5m) to the infected person?  The answer in this case is No.  Due to the width of the counter Darren is more than 1.5m away from customers at all times, including the infected person.
  2. The next item to consider is the size of the space that the exposure happened in;  Was the indoor space a) very small (less than 30sqm), b) small (less than 100sqm), c) medium (100-300sqm) or d) large (more than 300sqm)?  The answer in this case is less than 100sqm.
  3. The next item to consider is the length of exposure so the next question is about the length of exposure (time exposed; Was the exposure a) less than a minute, b) 1-15 minutes or c) more than 15 minutes?  The answer in this case is a) less than a minute
  4. The next question is about the exposed persons vaccination status;  Is Darren fully vaccinated?  The answer in this case is No (he is only partially vaccinated)
  5. So we have; Exposure to an infected person at a distance (point 1) in a small space (point 2) of a VERY SHORT duration (point 3) – which means that it is a Medium Risk Scenario.  As Darren is unvaccinated (point 4) we need to look at if there were masks worn
  6. The last thing to consider is if masks were worn.  In this case the answer is yes
  7. A Low Risk Scenario, where the exposed person is not vaccinated, is wearing a mask but is exposed for less than a minute gives an answer of Low Risk Contact , as such Darren will need to monitor for symptoms and if symptoms appear she will need to get tested.

NOTE:  If the exposure was longer than a minute and the exposed person is unvaccinated then the exposed person will be a Close Contact (UNVACCINATED)

Example 3 – vaccinated staff exposed to infected staff (during shift change over) – more than 15 minutes (less than an hour)
Amy is a console operator in a retail fuel site, and the worker who works after her tests positive for COVID-19.  Amy is now an exposed person.

  1. The first question is was this a High, Medium or Low Risk Scenario, so the question is; Did the exposed person come close (less than 1.5m) to the infected person?  The answer in this case is No.  Due to the instruction from management that shift change be kept short and for staff to ensure they keep their distance during shift change Amy is more than 1.5m away from the infected person.
  2. The next item to consider is the size of the space that the exposure happened in;  Was the indoor space a) very small (less than 30sqm), b) small (less than 100sqm), c) medium (100-300sqm) or d) large (more than 300sqm)?  The answer in this case is less than 100sqm.
  3. The next item to consider is the length of exposure so the next question is about the length of exposure (time exposed; Was the exposure a) less than a minute, b) 1-15 minutes or c) more than 15 minutes?  The answer in this case is c) more than 15 minutes
  4. The next question is about the exposed persons vaccination status;  Is Any fully vaccinated?  The answer in this case is Yes
  5. So we have; Exposure to an infected person at a distance (point 1) in a small space (point 2) of a prolonged duration (point 3) – which means that it is a Medium Risk Scenario.  As Amy is vaccinated (point 4) we need to look at if there were masks worn
  6. The last thing to consider is if masks were worn.  In this case the answer is yes
  7. A Medium Risk Scenario, where the exposed person is vaccinated and wearing a mask gives an answer of Low Risk Contact , as such Amy will need to monitor for symptoms and if symptoms appear she will need to get tested.

 

Learnings for Fuel Retail and Wholesale
In order to minimise the impact of exposures to the operation of the business fuel retail and wholesale businesses should;

  • Ensure staff are maintaining 1.5 meter distance from each other and customers
  • Ensure staff shift change and cross over is minimised, ideally less than 15 minutes

“ACAPMA is pleased to have clarity on exposure response as we move towards COVID-19 as an endemic disease.  There are still questions of operation and response, including cleaning response and isolation leave and payment implications.  ACAPMA is working through these with authorities and members, and encourages members to put forward their questions now, so that we can prepare for a much welcome open economy” explained ACAPMA Executive Manager for Employment and Training, Elisha Radwanowski.

More Information|
For more information see;  https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-10/2021-10-21_Workplaces%20business%20and%20industry.pdf

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
ACAPMA

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