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Implementing effective COVID-19 outbreak management plans

The interruption and dislocation caused by COVID-19 late last year has skyrocketed to unexpected levels, making it critical that outbreak management plans are in place and operating effectively at your workplace.

With the health authorities acknowledging that the spread of COVID-19 has increased at a rate that was not expected, the challenge in continuing to be able to safely operate your business will depend on the effectiveness of your outbreak management plan.

The experience of organisations such as aged-care operators during the pandemic provides guidance for all employers should an outbreak occur in their workplace.

The following guidance was provided by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in late December:

  • Have easy-to-read documents that outline what needs to happen and how quickly, and the roles and responsibilities of all staff should an outbreak occur. Strong governance arrangements support and reinforce the specific role and responsibilities of each staff member during the outbreak.
  • Have immediate access to staff rosters for workforce support, and be able to rapidly identify staff and contacts for urgent contact-tracing requirements.
  • Do not wait for formal confirmation of positive test results or instructions from the public health unit. Implement your outbreak management plan early.
  • Have contingency plans in place in case essential support and administration workers are furloughed.
  • Prepare for the possibility that an outbreak will continue for some time and that workers will need breaks.
  • Early and clear communication is essential, particularly in the case of staff who are furloughed as close contacts and unable to continue working onsite for a period.
  • You must proactively plan for potential risks and the implementation of mitigation strategies, such as identifying in advance a back-up replacement for the on-site Infection Prevention and Control lead in case that individual is furloughed as a close contact or they contract COVID-19.
  • Have your communication technology working well prior to an outbreak so it can be leveraged quickly.
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