Returning to the Workplace Safely – Frequently Asked Questions

Read answers to common questions about returning to the workplace safely.

If you are looking for information on cleaning your workstation and equipment in the workplace, please visit the Working Safely – Cleaning Your Workstation page on the COVID-19 website.

When can I return to work?

If you have been working from home you may only return to the workplace once the Victorian Government Public Health Order is lifted, your manager has completed a risk assessment and developed a plan for your safe transition back into the workplace. Before this, employees who can work from home, must continue to work from home where clinically and operationally possible.

Your Manager will contact you to discuss:

  • Preparations in your workplace for a safe return
  • How and when to safely transition back into the workplace
  • Monitoring and maintaining a safe environment once you have returned to the workplace

Can I continue to work from home?

Employees who are currently working from home may only return to the workplace once the Victorian Government Public Health Order is lifted. You will need to discuss your situation with your manager who will work with you to determine if your needs can be met by the personal safety requirements of the department. Your Manager will decide with you the best workplace arrangement for your particular circumstances and each employees requirements will be agreed on a case-by-case basis.

I’m a ‘high-risk employee’ when will it be safe for me to return to work?

If you are considered to be at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 you must discuss this with your Manager. The process for employees who may be at a higher risk is on the Monash Health COVID-19 Website.

What do I need to know before returning to work?

Guidance is outlined in Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees. Your Manager will contact you to discuss your individual circumstances and provide you with a copy of the above document.

Will working in the office be different when I return?

Before employees return to the workplace, your Manager will complete a workplace risk assessment to keep you safe. Some of the issues considered by managers include:

  • Whether employees can continue to work from home daily or at least on some days
  • How many employees will be returning to work in total
  • How many employees the workplace can safely accommodate at once
  • How the process of employees safely returning to the workplace can be graduated to ensure a controlled but steady return

Managers will discuss these changes with you and monitor the safety processes they have put in place to keep you safe.

Do I need to be temperature checked each day if my building doesn’t have it available?

Temperature checking has been established at the main entrance(s) to most site buildings, even if your workplace allows direct access you should avail yourself of temperature checking, if available.

We have fabric covered office chairs in my department, how do I clean those?

There is no requirement to clean your fabric office chairs, only the plastic arm rests as part of your regular cleaning. Many consumer waiting areas have fabric covering and with reduced consumers in waiting areas we are monitoring these areas as part of regular cleaning schedules. Physical distancing, good personal and hand hygiene is always required, regardless of the type of chair covering.

What about using communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and photocopiers?

Hand hygiene before and after using all communal areas is recommended. For kitchen areas bring your own plates, cups and utensils and wipe down any areas or items used such as the microwave after use. Support Services has also adjusted its cleaning schedules for high touch points. Shared food is also not permitted, except if individually wrapped.

If I feel unwell what should I do?

You must not come into work if you are unwell, even with mild illness. If you present to work with illness, you will be sent home immediately.

If you have symptoms that meet the current DHHS testing criteria you should present to a Screening Clinic and self-isolate as soon as possible.

If you are well enough to work from home, and your job enables you to do so, this may be an option (with your manager’s agreement). Otherwise, take sick leave as per the usual process.

Call the Monash Health Employee Hotline Number on 9594 5815 (external) or extension 45815 (internal) if further advice is needed.

If you are screened for COVID-19, you must advise your manager of the result as soon as possible so they can take appropriate action, if required.

What support, resources and equipment is available from Monash Health to assist me to work from home or return to work?

Monash Health is working within the OHS legislation and regulations to keep you safe at home and at work. Information to support you and your Manager with safe choices for working from home or alternative locations is available. There are toolkits, resources and information available on the Monash Health COVID-19 intranet site https://coronavirus.monashhealth.org/employees/working-from-home/

To meet your safety needs at home your Manager will work with you to complete a Home Self-Assessment Checklist and discuss with you the need to have appropriate workstations and environment at home. You can discuss with your Manager taking your office equipment home, e.g. chair and screen, and documenting the equipment details that you have taken home for your Manager’s records.

Can I use PPE if I can’t achieve physical distancing?

You must work with your Manager who is assessing the risks and putting in place actions to keep you safe. This includes the principles of physical distancing. If these cannot be achieved then your Manager will review the employee arrangements in your department. PPE is reserved for clinical care where close personal contact with consumers is undertaken.

Are there any changes to waste management?

The same rules for waste management still apply. The waste management procedures on PROMPT are available to explain the different types of waste management at Monash Health.

Do the COVID-19 time exposure guidelines still apply?

Time exposures guidelines apply for estimating levels of exposure risk, and should be implemented where reasonably practicable. You should avoid any unnecessary exposure that impacts on your personal safety and adhere to the physical distancing rules and safety principles outlined in the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees.

Do the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees apply to the Clinical Areas?

These FAQs and Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees apply to all areas of Monash Health. Clinical areas have additional guidelines on infection prevention, using PPE and cleaning regimes to keep our employees, visitors and consumers safe.

I catch public transport to work, what do I need to be doing to keep safe?

Discuss with your Manager if you should continue to work from home if appropriate to eliminate the need to use public transport. If using public transport ensure you apply the principles to keep you safe outlined in the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees which includes physical distancing, personal and hand hygiene.

Where should I store my personal effects when I return to work?

It is recommended that you store your personal items in a container in a secure drawer or locker to minimise the amount of items located on or near a workstation and to keep your items secure. If you do not have adequate personal space, consider limiting the personal items you bring to the workplace or discuss storage options with your manager.

Will there be adequate space to safely return employees back to work and how will this affect our productivity?

Your Manager will assess and plan for a safe return to work of employees in your department and will put into place a range of strategies to ensure that the principles of keeping you safe such as physical distancing. The evidence base for increased productivity while working from home is strong and this can be maintained with good planning and communication to meet your individual needs and those of your department.

Do I have to download the COVIDSafe App?

It is strongly encouraged that you download the COVIDSafe App and ensure it is activated, but it is not mandatory.

Do I have to clean common spaces, or confirm that they are being cleaned?

The cleaning frequency of high touch points areas has been increased however you still need to practice good hand hygiene before and after contact with all other communal use items/areas like photocopiers, kitchens and other equipment.

Should I open windows or enhance air conditioner or fan use?

If safe and practical to do so it is recommended to exchange and improve the air flow by opening doors or windows, however discuss this with your Manager in the first instance. It is not recommended to use fans or increase air conditioning flow in confined spaces unless your Manager seeks advice from Infection Prevention and Engineering. Air conditioning that exchanges air with the outside instead of recycling air is preferred.

Can I have meetings outdoors?

Yes, you can have meetings outdoors as long as you follow all the safety principles outlined in the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees.

Does physical distancing apply to lifts?

Yes, physical distancing applies to lifts where reasonably practicable to do so. However, due to space restrictions within lifts, it is not expected that the 4m2 rule is achievable in most instances. Therefore responsible use, including 1.5m distancing, is encouraged. Posters to signify this are available from the Monash Health COVID-19 website.

When using the lifts ensure you adopt good hand and personal hygiene principles, including hand hygiene before and after use. Additional cleaning of all high contact areas such as lift doors and panels has been put in place.

Will we be providing disposable crockery and cutlery in all areas?

The cafeteria areas and infectious patients have disposable crockery and cutlery. Consider bringing your own or crockery and cutlery to work and wash immediately after use with warm soapy water, dry thoroughly and store in a plastic bag with your personal belongings.

Who do we contact after hours regarding illness?

The normal procedure still stands, you should contact your Manager during business hours, and Shift Leader/After-hours Manager/Coordinator as soon as possible.

Is Infection Prevention the first contact point for all queries, even cleaning related?

For any queries you may have your Manager is the first point of contact, as it is likely they have been asked the question before. After hours you can raise any issues or questions with your Shift Leader/After-hours Coordinator/Manager.

Should users of meeting rooms be required to wipe down the furniture at the end of the meeting?

The main activity you must do is practice hand/personal hygiene and physical distancing before, during and after the meeting. However, the meeting room table should be wiped down at the end of your meeting. We are recommending to use WebEx and avoid face to face meetings, if you must meet in a room then physical distancing is required and the meeting should be finished within 2 hours.

Should we removal communal dishcloth and tea towels from shared kitchen areas and replace with single use only?

Disposable hand paper towels are better for communal kitchens. Discuss with your Manager replacing cloth items in the communal kitchen and with paper towels. These items can be ordered on iProc. Alternatively, you can have your own personal tea towel and dishcloth, however these items will need to be stored in your personal items and changed over daily.

Are we recommending to wipe down the printer or photocopier after each use?

We are recommend you practice hand hygiene before and after use of shared peripherals which includes photocopiers and printers. Your manager and the team may decide to include more frequent cleaning of high use equipment and document this on your cleaning schedule.

Most bins in our department don’t have lids – is this unsafe?

Bins in workstations and administration areas don’t require lids, however bins used in kitchens, communal and clinical areas should have lids. Discuss your situation with your Manager who will assist you to locate the missing lids or order bins/lids if appropriate.

Are spray bottles appropriate given the risk of multiple users and damage to electrical goods?

Hand hygiene before and after using spray bottles is recommended. If you are using spray bottles, spray directly onto the cleaning cloth to dampen the cloth then wipe and dispose of the cloth. If using water in a spray bottle to dampen cloths remember to clean the spray bottle and change the water every 24hrs.

Are cleaning products for workstations available in WINC?

Winc has been replaced by iProc. Cleaning products are available via iProc and order numbers are available on the Infection Prevention intranet page.

Teams that been on-site during the pandemic do not have sufficient space to meet the recommended physical distancing requirements, how can we address this?

Discuss this issue with your Manager and Health and Safety Representative in the first instance and if needed refer to the Employee and Manager Guide – Safely Returning to the Workplace, which provides checklists and information about how to achieve the physical distancing in your area. Physical distancing must be adhered to at all times.

How do we get our office and lunch room space assessed to ensure we meet physical distancing guidelines?

Managers and Health and Safety Representatives work together to review your workspace in-line with physical distancing requirements. As each workspace is different your Manager will determine the best approach.

What support or ‘tips’ will Monash Health give Managers for speaking to Employees who want to continue to work from home?

The People and Culture Team are preparing coaching sessions which may include videos, role play and material to support Managers with these conversations with their Employees. We have provided presentations on Change Management and Working from Home and will continue to support Managers to have these discussions. A reasonable approach needs to be taken when determining if the role can be adequately and safely performed at home.

Are Tea Bags safe to use as they are not individually wrapped in communal kitchens?

Individually wrapped tea bags are now available for ordering, please check your supplies in communal kitchens and place a new order for individually wrapped tea bags.

Some teams have been “split” to maintain safe physical distancing, will this continue after COVID-19?

The affected teams need to discuss this with their Manager as there may be opportunities and benefits in leaving the teams ‘split’. Your Manager is the best placed to discuss this with you and determine the best way forward.

What if an Employee desires to continue to work from home isn’t supported by the Manager?

Managers are being coached to have this important conversation with their Employees and to take a reasonable approach to determining the needs of their Department against the needs of their Employees. As a last resort, this can be escalated via the P&C Business Partner.

Will you be following the Premier’s guidelines to extend work from home to 31st July 2020?

Monash Health strictly adheres to all directions set down by the Premier and Government relating to COVID-19, including the requirement to continue to work from home if you can.

In communal kitchens, is everyone using the milk for tea and coffee considered sharing food?

Milk in a communal kitchen is not considered sharing food. Hand hygiene before and after using the communal kitchen and the milk is important to keep everyone safe.

Are free coffee vending machines being maintained to COVID-19 hygiene standards?

Cleaning schedules in public spaces have been increased to ensure regular cleaning, this includes high touch items like vending machines, lift panels, door handles etc.

Is appropriate to offer face masks to outpatients where we are not able to maintain 1.5m physical distancing?

We must keep everyone safe and ensure physical distancing, hand and personal hygiene is enforced. If your department is not able to meet these requirements the issue must be escalated immediately to your Manager.

We are currently using Dettol and Pinoclean wipes for workstation cleaning our hotdesks, is this safe to continue to use?

Yes, it is safe to continue to use these products however the main focus must be on hand hygiene before and after cleaning; and cleaning workstations before and after use and documenting when the hotdesk was last cleaned.

Staff have been provided with or taken their office equipment home (monitors and laptops). How do we move these items to and from the workplace on a regular basis safely and do they need to be returned to MH?

Managers need to discuss and plan with their staff on the requirements to work from home or returning to the workplace. Once this has been established, how this will be accommodated regarding equipment can be can be decided. Options such as rosters, hotdesking permanent laptops and screens insitu and staggered start/finish time would eliminate the need to be moving items between home and work. The Manager will determine with the Employee which equipment will be needed at the workplace and if it is excess to requirements.

What will happen with parking fees when staff are dividing their time between home and work?

We have recently sent an email to Employees on 18th June regarding Employee Parking Refund and how access a reimbursement if you have been working from home. The email has all the information you require and the relevant form to complete “Car Parking Re-imbursement Form for Working From Home during COVID-19”, further information is available from jenny.smith@monashhealth.org

Do the Monash Health Safely Returning to the Workplace guidelines apply to volunteers and consumer advisors?

The Safe Return to Work guidelines and principles apply to Employees, Volunteers and Consumer advisors. Managers will be making contact with these groups to discuss and plan on a safe return to work.

How do we approach other employees who are not adhering to the five core principles?

It is safe to raise these issues directly with other employees and respectfully remind them of how to keep themselves and everyone else safe. You can escalate to your Manager if you are not comfortable to approach the employee directly.

If I feel unsafe at the workplace what should I do?

If you feel unsafe with returning you to work safely, support is available.

As a starting point, discuss any general workplace issues with your Manager. There is also a local Health and Safety Representative (the HSR contact list is can be found at http://intranet.southernhealth.org.au/health_safety/employeeRepresentation.html)

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