Workplace safety and hygiene for COVID-19

While there is no evidence that food can transmit COVID-19, South Australian agriculture, food and wine businesses need to adhere to robust biosecurity practices.

With good, hygienic processes you can reduce the effects of the virus on your business and the public.

COVID-19 and your workforce – guidelines for industry

Food SA has developed guidelines to help the food and beverage industry prepare for and manage COVID-19, based on the Australian Chicken Meat Federation guidelines. This information is in line with current national COVID-19 health information to help minimise risk to business and its workforce.

The guidelines include information on:

  • protecting the health and safety of your employees, their families and broader community
  • maintaining the ongoing supply of food and beverages to Australian consumers while supporting food security
  • keeping businesses operating to make sure
    • the supply chain is not put at risk
    • there is ongoing job security for your workforce.

Making changes to protect your workforce

While there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted via food, there is no immunity in the general human population and the disease is highly infectious. Businesses should adopt practical measures to reduce the risk of spread between staff or to the general public.

Review SafeWork Australia's workplace guidelines.

Below are the key guidances for food businesses.

Review the health of your staff

  • Make sure all staff understand the importance and regulations about not working when sick.
  • Check staff daily to make sure they're well enough to work. If they're unwell with flu-like symptoms, exclude them from the workplace immediately and ask them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Reinforce good hand hygiene

Proper hand washing is one of the most effective tools to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

  • There should be more handwashing (after going to the bathroom, touching your face, after handling raw food) which should be done effectively according to Department of Health guidelines.
  • Set up extra handwashing and sanitising stations throughout the business.
  • If you can't find liquid soap or hand sanitiser, a cake or bar of soap and water are equally effective.

Review shift arrangements and social interaction of your workforce

Social distancing measures will ensure employees are reducing their likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19. Changes to limit contact between workers will be effective in slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and will reduce the impact on businesses with a staff member who has tested positive.

Follow the advice from SA Health for social distancing and density in the workplace

  • Increase time between shifts or service periods
    This will minimise staff interaction and allow more time for extra cleaning.
  • Limit the number of people in contact on a production floor or kitchen
    In production areas or within staff teams, have the same people stand or work next to one another each day. This will limit the spread of the virus between staff if an infection occurs.
  • Minimise the overlapping of shifts/rosters as much as possible.
  • Review customer entry points and interaction to optimise social distancing
    Use customer control methods to meet social distancing requirements, e.g. a ticket system to control entry into the shop. Place signs near the ticketing system that explain customers should wait in line and maintain at least 1.5 metres between each other.
  • Review staff roles and points of contact
    Restrict face-to-face meetings as much as possible. Keep any meeting to less than 15 minutes. Identify what roles or areas within a business may be able to work from home or away from other staff. Tell staff to not congregate in carparks or other common areas after their shift.

The State Coordinator issued the latest Emergency Management Gatherings Direction on March 27 2020.

This directive requires that the total number of persons present in a gathering of 10 people or less must not exceed one person per 4 square metres. This does not include a gathering at an office building, factory, mining site or construction site that is necessary for the normal operations of those premises.

Those where distancing is not possible, must use their best endeavours to comply with the social distancing principles. The social distancing principles require a person to attempt to maintain a space of at least 1.5 metres between themselves and each person present in the same place.

For example, a factory production line or grading line must attempt to adhere to the 1.5m social distancing requirements.

Look after the health of your workers

Taking steps to increase staff welfare and health is essential to address any concerns about the present COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Have staff get a flu shot as quickly as possible
    A flu shot will not protect workers from COVID-19, but it will help to reduce the effects of a combination of seasonal influenza and coronavirus on staffing and production. SA Health is urging everyone to get their seasonal flu immunisation. Read more about the 2020 Influenza Immunisation Program .
  • Reassure staff where possible
    The scale of the novel coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. Check in with staff on a regular basis to review their welfare and address any concerns as quickly as possible.

Know how to:

  • manage staff who are being tested
  • manage staff who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • properly clean the workplace
  • social distance.

Encourage staff to be open about their symptoms. Allow them to express the concerns they have about their personal circumstances if they need to quarantine. They may be worried about their job security and there's a risk they may continue to work while infectious if they believe their job security is threatened.

SA Health’s Advice for businesses and organisations factsheet (PDF 117KB).

Keep your workplace clean

It is recommended to increase the occurrence of cleaning in all areas, including workplaces, to at least daily. This is especially important for high traffic areas and areas accessed by the public. It is recommended that individual work areas be cleaned at least twice daily. It is best practice to:

  • routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and fittings with detergent solution
  • clean surfaces as needed when they are visibly soiled and immediately after any spillage.

The cleaning or closure of a business will differ from case to case depending on the location of the individual during the time or days before the positive case entered isolation. All areas of the business where the positive case has worked will need to close and undergo cleaning.

Food South Australia has produced guidelines to help the food and beverage industry prepare for and manage COVID-19 in the workplace, including information on cleaning and disinfection.

Further information on cleaning and disinfection in the workplace is available at SA Health and the Australian Government.

Safe Work Australia COVID-19 information for workplaces

Safe Work Australia have created a useful toolkit for businesses to find relevant and updated COVID-19 information specific to their industry. The website features an easy to use content filter that allows users to find information by picking the drop-down menus that are relevant to them, including their industry and the type of information they are looking for. See the toolkit and website.

Seasonal staff and self-isolation

Anyone entering South Australia to undertake seasonal work must self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival. This applies regardless of whether they have already spent 14 days in quarantine in another state or territory.

Self-isolation and quarantine advice is available from SA Health.

SAPOL will be undertaking periodic checks on people who have entered SA from overseas or interstate to ensure they are complying with the mandatory 14 days of self-quarantine. Anyone who does not comply faces a maximum penalty of $20,000 for individuals and a maximum penalty of $75,000 for a company.

Managing contractors

You can still engage contractors as long as social distancing measures are followed, and all people remain healthy and able to perform their duties.

Businesses employing contractors have the right to refuse entry to anyone displaying symptoms such as fever or coughing. Businesses can also seek assurances from contractors prior to allowing them to enter their property:

  • that they have had no contact in the last 14 days with anyone tested COVID-19 positive
  • that they have not travelled overseas within the last 14 days.

Further information on self-isolation can be found at www.sa.gov.au/covid-19

Dealing with sick customers

If a customer or other individual enters your business and is displaying cold/flu symptoms, you can refuse them service.

All members of the public have an obligation to stay at home while displaying any symptoms such as fever or coughing. You have the right to refuse service and insist that anyone with these symptoms leaves the premises.

Dealing with staff who are ill, waiting for a test result or tested positive

Exclude an employee waiting for a COVID-19 test result from work

Any worker waiting for the outcome of a test for COVID-19 must self-isolate. Read SA Health's self-isolating and quarantine advice.

If you have been tested for COVID-19 and the result was negative you must still remain in isolation if:

  • you have been identified as a close contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 while they were infectious – you must isolate yourself for 14 days after your last contact with that person
  • you have been overseas in the last 14 days – you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the day you arrived back. Do not undertake any food handling activity or face-to-face interaction with other workers.

Actions to take if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19

1. Isolate the infected employee

Any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 must be isolated and needs to follow the directions of public health authorities. They will not be released from isolation until they have recovered and tested negative.

2. Rapidly trace close contacts

Work with local public health authorities to rapidly trace any close contact of the infected employee to minimise further risk of spread. Prompt tracing of close contacts is essential to minimise any disruption to production.

Contacts and contact tracing

The appropriate person (usually a supervisor or manager) is to advise the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) of SA Health at 1300 232 272, HealthCommunicableDiseases@sa.gov.au of the positive case. CDCB will perform contact tracing as required. To help this happen quickly, the appropriate person will need to provide CDCB the following information as soon as possible:

  • a detailed list of personnel with contact information for each workplace area or section and different shifts as applicable
  • previous rosters showing where the positive case may have been, and with whom they may have had contact
  • information about the type and duration of contact  each person on the list may have had with the positive case (e.g. 15mins face to face, 2hrs in shared space).

The time frame for CDCB to undertake the contact tracing will depend on:

  • the number of people that have been in contact with the staff member /contractor with the positive result and
  • how fast the business provides the information required by CDCB.

To assist with contact tracing in the event that an employee returns a positive COVID-19 result, the below form has been designed to record data proactively to allow easy identification for isolation and testing of contacts should the need arise. These form should be used at every shift.

Essential travellers are required to keep records of close contacts for a 14 day period from the date of their arrival in South Australia. Find out more about the requirements of essential travellers.

What happens to close contacts?

Close contacts will be asked to home isolate for 14 days at the direction of public health authorities. For more information see the SA Health website. What is the definition of a close contact in a food business?

A close contact may be defined as one or both of the following:

  • Anyone who has been within 1.5 metres of the infected employee for at least 2 hours at any time in the 48 hours before that employee first experienced symptoms.
  • An employee who has had face-to-face contact for at least 15 minutes. This type of contact may also occur in a lunchroom, small kitchen space, or other environment (e.g. separate to a production room floor).

What happens to my business if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19?

If your business can demonstrate good manufacturing practices, such as:

  • staff routinely wearing protective equipment, such as gloves, overalls, other protective clothing
  • adherence to strict hand washing procedures
  • adoption of rigorous cleaning and sanitising programs throughout the entire production facility
  • enhanced procedures to support social distancing between employees (at least 1.5 m)

then a full shutdown of your facility and quarantine of all employees may be unnecessary. A shutdown may actually have ramifications on animal welfare, and loss of confidence in the food supply.

If your business can't demonstrate good manufacturing practices, the diagnosis of COVID-19 in an employee is likely to have a greater effect on your business.

Failure to comply with the directive may result in an expiation of $1,000.

Closure and cleaning

What’s needed will differ case by case depending on the staff member/contractor/volunteer location(s) during the time or days before the positive case went into isolation.

All areas/sections of the business where the positive case has worked will need to close and undergo cleaning as per the SA Environmental Management Fact Sheet.

The closure period will differ case by case and is dependent on the time taken to undertake contact tracing and cleaning.

Changes to food safety inspections and audits

There will be changes to food safety inspections and audits.

It's a priority for the Australian food regulators and the Australian food regulation system to maintain confidence and oversight of food safety in food supply.

Food safety audit and inspection officers will observe the same personal health procedures for COVID-19 as those expected of food businesses and the public, with these additions:

  • Increased focus on maintaining personal hygiene (e.g. increased hand washing).
  • Social distancing practices (at least 1.5 metres between people).

If audit and inspection staff report flu-like symptoms (e.g. sore throat, fever, cough), they will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days to minimise the risk of transmission.

To keep audit and inspection staff safe, virtual auditing (video conferencing), desk audits or provision of electronic data on key food safety system performance measures may be introduced.

Advice on the administration of regulatory foods safety audits and inspections will continue to be reviewed as more information about COVID-19 becomes available.

Contact your relevant food regulator if you have questions about the regulatory food safety audit and inspection processes.

Food safety accreditation

Now is a good time to make sure you’re up to date with accreditation. See PIRSA’s food safety page for more information.

Taking care of your health

Self-isolation and quarantine

If you are a primary producer and have been ordered to self-isolate or quarantine, you must remain within the boundaries of your property and not have direct contact with other people.

Essential travel within and between land parcels is acceptable, provided you do not have any contact with staff, contractors and visitors (e.g. stay in your vehicle with windows closed to allow contractors or deliveries to enter the property via a gate).

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 you must not travel outside the boundaries of your main property except to seek testing for COVID-19 or for urgent medical care.

Visit the SA Health website for more information about self-isolating and quarantine.

Flu immunisation

SA Health is urging everyone to get their seasonal flu immunisation. The flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, but will help keep people healthier so less susceptible to illness, and may reduce the burden that the flu has on the health system. Read more about the 2020 Influenza Immunisation Program.

Getting back to work safely

Plan how you reopen and stay safe

The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission has developed a planning tool to help you develop a plan to keep your workers, customers and the community safe as you reopen or increase your business activities. See the planning tool.

Helping businesses get back to work with ‘COVID-clean’ toolkit

Restaurants and pubs are among some of the businesses who will benefit from a new training program to prepare the hospitality sector for reopening in the coming weeks and importantly, staying ‘COVID-clean’ into the future.

The State and Federal Governments have equally contributed $2.6 million towards the training which will be delivered through the State Government and promoted by key stakeholders such as the Restaurant and Catering Association, the Australian Hotels Association and the tourism industry.

Participants will learn a range of skills, including amongst other skills:

  • hand hygiene practices
  • effective surface cleaning
  • use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • disposal of contaminated waste.

Up to 5,500 training places for this accredited training will be available in SA in retail, tourism, hospitality, cleaning, security, transport and logistics, and will be delivered by local registered training organisations.

Read the media release.

Hand sanitiser and face masks

Hand sanitiser suppliers

Face mask suppliers

Companies with low PPE supplies

Please register your shortage on the national Industry Capability Network portal. This portal is being used to connect organisations experiencing PPE shortages with suppliers, both Australian manufacturers gearing up to produce PPE as well as offshore capability.

Once registered, an ICN consultant will be in touch to discuss your needs in more detail and can conduct investigations across the national network. If there is the ability to aggregate demand, referrals can be made to companies able to deliver bulk orders.

Read more about the ICN COVID-19 response.

Page Last Reviewed: 03 Apr 2020
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