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Last updated 19 November 2020.
Please note the advice provided on these pages is intended as general advice. If you have specific concerns, please contact the Duty Officer to discuss your particular circumstances by email [email protected]
Additional information can be found at the Department of Health website.
Q.What PPE do I need? And what if my employer isn’t providing it?
If you are providing care for patients who have or are suspected to have coronavirus, your employer must provide you with appropriate PPE to ensure you can do your job safely.
The PPE must be readily accessible to you so you can access it when you need it. Your employer also needs to ensure you are trained in how to use the PPE safely.
View our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Summary Guidelines for COVID-19 for the setting where you are working below.
Please note: Evidence regarding COVID-19 is continually evolving. This document will be updated regularly to reflect new emerging evidence but may not always include the very latest evidence in real-time. Please refer to the SA Health website for further information.
For more information visit SA Health’s website.
Report PPE concerns
If you have concerns that your employer is not providing you with the necessary PPE (or is making it very difficult to access) and/or is not training people in its safe use, then you should:
If your concerns are not being taken seriously, contact the Duty Officer. You can also contact SafeWork SA on 1800 777 209 in an emergency.
Q.What does my employer need to do?
A. Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require employers to take every step, so far as reasonably practicable, to eliminate or minimise the risk of workers and others contracting COVID-19. This will require employers to have a COVID-19 work plan containing a range of control measures.
Employers must genuinely consult workers and unions on measures to control the health and safety risks of COVID-19. Workers should be provided with clear direction and guidance about what is expected of them, in particular:
We know that the most effective action employers can take is to ask employees to identify potential exposure to COVID-19 and to financially support them to self-isolate with paid special leave. This is something the ANMF is advocating for.
Q Do I have to work overtime and if so, how much is reasonable?
A. Some areas of the health care system are likely to experience high demand because of the coronavirus (for example Intensive Care Units, emergency departments and pathology laboratories). While employers can ask their employees to work additional hours, those additional hours must be reasonable.
If the pandemic worsens, it will be critical that employers manage the fatigue and general wellbeing of employees. This will usually be in accordance with workplace specific Fatigue Management Systems. Employers should consider all available options to meet increased or changed service needs, including offering additional hours to part-time and casual employees, offering paid overtime or time-off-in-lieu arrangements or engaging additional resources.
Q. If I am concerned about transmission in the course of my work, what should I do? Can I refuse to work?
A. Your health and safety is paramount.
If you’ve got concerns, the first step should be to talk to your employer and the Health and Safety Representative.
Stopping or leaving work because of a coronavirus concern should only occur if there is a direct or imminent risk to your health. This will depend on the circumstances, but could include:
In these circumstances, Health and Safety Representatives may direct a stoppage of work.
Q. As part of my duties I have to complete lung/spirometry assessments, requiring patients to forcefully exhale air within close proximity to a nurse.
Is it safe to continue to do this?
What PPE should I be provided with?
A. We would advise it is safe to continue to perform such tests if necessary for patient care, however it would be worth chatting to your employer to ensure the appropriate safety protocols are in place to ensure the safety of staff – making sure nurses are supplied with proper PPE, e.g., wearing goggles, surgical masks, etc, while undertaking the test if that is deemed appropriate.
Here is a link to a webpage the government has formulated regarding recommendations for the use of PPE during hospital care of people with COVID-19. This will obviously just be a guide as you are not a hospital and not dealing with people infected with COVID-19, but may be helpful.
Q. Can I get workers' compensation benefits if I contract COVID-19 at work?
A.Workers who contract COVID-19 in the course of their employment may be able to claim workers' compensation benefits for any time lost or medical care required.
However, it may be challenging to prove that work was the significant contributing cause of the injury in light of the growing number of community infections. You should contact the Duty Officer for assistance if you are unable to work due to contracting COVID-19 at work.
Q. Can I wear my uniform to and from work?
A. It is recommended that staff do not wear their uniform home. Staff should wear a clean uniform daily, and if possible, wear other clothing to work and change before leaving work. Uniforms should be placed in a plastic bag to take home and should be washed, as soon as you get home, in hot water and washing detergent in a separate load.
Prior to washing, do not shake clothing and clothes should be dried in a dryer, or outside in sunshine.
Shoes should be left at the entry door and staff should shower before contact with any family members or items in the home.
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