This is such a fast moving and infectious virus that between the time I write this article to the time you read it, the whole game could have changed. We could be in all sorts of strife, like Victoria is now. One thing we have to remember is that our health and safety obligations in the workplace haven’t changed, in that we retain the responsibility to keep the workplace safe for our staff and patrons.

The waters are a little bit muddied in terms of parameters here because it’s essentially being regulated in Queensland by four government entities e.g. Health, Police, OLGR and WHSQ (not forgetting the politicians in charge). We’ve gone through the lockdown stages for a few months and now we’re slowly trying to return to normal, although I’d suggest that a new normal has replaced the old one for the next year or two. It’s a little bit like the unknown knowns, if you recall the terminology from a few years back.

You’ve done your COVID Safe Checklist, and your WHS Plan, and are now implementing the COVID-19 Safe Plan for Hotels. A part of the latter, and something we shouldn’t lose sight of, is our obligation to provide a safe working environment for our workers.

Without just repeating what’s listed in the plan, there are some key points that need to be emphasised, especially those that have impacted significantly on our southern neighbours.

The major one seems to be that if any staff are feeling ill or a little under weather, they should not come to work, to potentially protect others from contamination. This is a pandemic where frequently those infected show no overt signs of illness. That’s obviously a hard one to manage, but if that’s the case it leads into other measures that can be used to protect workmates. Any overt respiratory symptoms, or changes like losing the sense of taste and smell, it’s off for a test and self-isolate for a period of time.

Next is regular hand washing with soap or alcohol based hand sanitiser and the promotion of good hygiene practices. Make sure you have enough supplies to go around for both staff and patrons. Regularly clean high contact surfaces both back and front of house.

I was asked the other day whose responsibility would it be to supply PPE if we all had to wear masks in public and in the workplace, if decreed by government. My first thought with that is, if we got to the stage where hotel staff had to wear a mask at work, there’s every chance that the industry would be closed again, like Victoria.

The fact is though, to answer that question, it’d probably be a shared responsibility. The staff member would be responsible for their own mask in public, and at work, they would used one supplied by the business. Currently, if you require workers to use PPE at work (whatever that might be), then you are obliged to supply it and ensure that it is worn.

I’ve been to a few hotels lately and despite the hassle of recording details, social distancing, alcohol handwash etc it seemed to me that the ones who were doing it right, and telling you what was going on as soon as you walked in the door, inspired some confidence that you were being protected by your local publican and staff.