Essential workers who are close contacts (household contacts) of a positive COVID case are provided with an exemption to quarantine in order to attend their essential work. In addition to the stringent precautions that must be taken while executing the exemption, new guidance published by WorkSafe ACT clarifies that this exemption only applies where “there are no lower-risk options available”.
The Standing Exemption applies to the fuel wholesale, transport and retail industry, and specifically the following staff types;
- Fuel transport drivers
- Fuel depot workers
- Fuel transport support workers (admin)
- Service station workers
- Roadhouse workers
The Standing Exemption allows for essential workers to come to work, provided they are meeting the risk mitigation precautions, if their work is essential and can not be done from home.
Risk mitigation precautions required;
- A negative Rapid Antigen Test result is required for each day that the essential worker is leaving isolation to attend work
- Where possible the essential worker should Isolate from positive household contact as much as possible and regularly sanitise common areas
- Where possible the essential worker should travel alone in private transport to and from work
- A face mask is required while at work, ideally N95 respirator masks
- The essential worker is required to monitor for symptoms for 14 days and if symptoms present get tested and isolate – do not attend work, even essential work
It is important to note that the essential worker is ONLY permitted to leave isolation to go to work, they may not attend any other venues.
The Guidance released from WorkSafe ACT has built on and clarified the Standing Exemption framework to make it clear that it will be considered a breach of safety requirements if the business allows an essential worker who is a close contact to attend the workplace if there is any other lower risk option. The WorkSafe ACT guidance makes it clear that this includes any other staff who may be able to complete the role who are not close contacts.
“Practically in a fuel transport and retail setting this ‘get someone else’ approach is not feasible, indeed the exemption was bought into place because there simply is not enough staff to fill the current gaps, but it is important that the business consider it. Is there someone else who could, with attention to fatigue management, do the shift the close contact would usually do? If yes then that alternative person should be used” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
“While in most cases in our industry the answer will be ‘there is no one else’ it is still important to ask the question” concluded Elisha.
For a copy of the Standing Exemption for Essential Workers see; https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/1940864/Standing-Exemption-for-critical-workers-food-and-transport.pdf
For a copy of the WorkSafe ACT Guidance see; https://www.worksafe.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1940631/Guidance-Note-Exempt-Essential-Workers-Feb-22.pdf
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Elisha Radwanowski BCom (HRM & IR)