Do You Need To Close Workplace For Covid -19 cleaning during a pandemic?

There is no automatic requirement to close an entire workplace following a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19. It may be unnecessary if the person has only visited parts of your workplace or if government health officials advise you the risk of others being exposed are low.

Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.

Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first. 

But be careful, if you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions, and the proper COVID-19 cleaning has to be done without any automated workplace closing system.

1. Seek advice and assess the risks

To determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about your concerns and see what they say. You do not have to do this if the person has already informed you that they have or may potentially have COVID-19

Seek government health advice by calling your state or territory helpline. Follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19.

Ensure that you have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they had been in the workplace, who they had been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist your state and territory public health unit if they need to follow up with you at a later time. 

Your state or territory WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on your situation. 

2. Identify and tell close contacts

The state or territory public health unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements. 

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist your state and territory public health unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. You must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved. 

Seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected.

3. Clean and disinfect

Close off the affected areas and do not let others use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow.

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas as well as equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in our Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide and also the Cleaning information for your industry.

Cleaners must wear appropriate PPE, for example disposable gloves or gloves appropriate to the cleaning chemicals being used, and safety eyewear to protect against chemical splashes. If there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other body fluids in the area, the cleaners should also wear a disposable apron.

Your state and territory public health unit may also provide you with further information about how and where to clean. You must follow those instructions.

4. Review risk management controls

Review your COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with your workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required. 

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19. 

See also our information for managing COVID-19 risks in your industry. This information is provides practical guidance on managing risks in your workplace.

Do I need to close my workplace for cleaning?

There is no automatic requirement to close an entire workplace following a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19. It may be unnecessary if the person has only visited parts of your workplace or if government health officials advise you the risk of others being exposed are low. 

Whether you need to suspend operations in your workplace will depend on factors such as the size of the workplace, nature of work, number of people and suspected areas of contamination in your workplace. 

See also our information about Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

When can workers return to work following recovery from COVID-19?

Workers who have been isolated after having tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work when they have fully recovered and have met the criteria for clearance from isolation. 

The criteria may vary depending on circumstances of the workplace and states and territories may manage clearance from isolation differently. Clearance may be by the public health authority or the persons treating clinician. 

There are specific criteria for clearance which apply to health care workers and aged care workers. As these may change, these workers should check with a medical practitioner or the public health authority as to whether the criteria for clearance from isolation has been met before they return to work. 

Contact your state or territory helpline for further advice.  

When can workers return to work following quarantine?

Workers who have completed a 14-day quarantine period (either after returning from travel or because they were a close contact with a confirmed case), and who did not develop symptoms during quarantine, do not need a medical clearance to return to work. 

You should not ask these workers to be tested for COVID-19 cleaning in order to return to work. 

Information Source – https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-print-pack/750/733