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What to do if workers test positive for COVID-19

As we continue to support industry and business to remain COVID-safe, we want to ensure employers and their workers who test positive for COVID-19 have the key information and resources they need.

Changes to reporting COVID-19 cases in the workplace

Businesses are only be expected to notify SafeWork NSW if a worker is hospitalised and/or dies as a result of contracting COVID-19 at work. Businesses are no longer required to notify SafeWork NSW if a worker tests positive for COVID-19.

Read more in the Guidance for businesses with a worker who tests positive for COVID-19

How a business will find out that a worker tests positive for COVID-19

A business owner or employer might be notified that a worker who has attended the workplace has tested positive for COVID-19 by:

  • the worker who has tested positive
  • an employer of a worker who visits the workplace
  • public health authorities.

The privacy and confidentiality of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 must always be maintained.

The actions described below apply to situations where a worker has attended the workplace. Business owners or employers are not required to notify that a customer with COVID-19 has visited the workplace.

What to do if a worker who tests positive for COVID-19 has been in the workplace

  1. Tell the worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 to return home directly and follow the advice from NSW Health
  2. Ensure the safety of the workplace and workers, for example by cleaning and disinfecting all areas used by the person who tested positive for COVID-19. See further information on cleaning the workplace
  3. Businesses should assess how much contact other workers had with the person who tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious in the workplace. Use the Contact Classification Tool (available soon), the contact risk assessment for general workplace settings and any industry-specific guidance to help with this assessment. If you need assistance with this process, call SafeWork NSW on 131 050
  4. Your assessment of workplace risk, guided by the NSW Health contact risk assessment matrix, may indicate there are workers who have had high risk exposures or moderate risk exposures. In this situation, direct the workers to the NSW Health advice in the contact risk assessment for general workplace settings and the information for people exposed to COVID-19
  5. Advise workers and contractors of the situation in your workplace. Consult with workers about the identification and management of any remaining health and safety risks.

How will NSW Health be involved

NSW Health will not be involved in most instances where there is a positive worker in the workplace. NSW Health may become involved if there are multiple cases associated with a business or workplace, or in other specific circumstances. Based on further assessment, NSW Health may recommend further actions to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.

Business responsibilities for informing workers

Advise workers and contractors of the general situation, noting that the privacy and confidentiality of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 must always be maintained. Information provided should include:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 that staff and contractors should monitor themselves for
  • Where to seek advice and help
  • Reminders to staff, contractors, visitors and customers to not enter the premises if they are unwell
  • Advice on physical distancing and personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene and cough etiquette)
  • What infection control measures the business operator has put in place, including cleaning
  • Any other specific advice provided by public health authorities

Closing down the premises may or may not be required

Businesses do not necessarily have to close if a worker has tested positive to COVID-19. The decision to close a business depends on:

  • Ongoing transmission. Evidence of ongoing spread of infection (transmission) from person to person in the workplace might mean the business has to close temporarily to stop transmission between workers.
  • Cleaning requirements. Premises must be appropriately cleaned following attendance of a positive case. This can be done overnight so as not to disrupt normal business hours. If premises are told during business hours they may need to close to undertake cleaning.

Cleaning guidance is available

All areas used by any suspected or positive case of COVID-19 should be cleaned and disinfected. For hard surfaces, either:

  • use detergent and water for cleaning followed by disinfectant solution (2-step clean)
  • use a combined detergent and disinfectant solution (2-in-1 clean).

Specialist cleaning is not required

Learn more about routine cleaning and disinfection in the workplace For more information on cleaning, visit Safe Work Australia

When workers are returning to work

Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 can only return to work after they have completed the required self-isolation period and don’t have a sore throat, runny nose, cough or shortness of breath.

Workers will receive an SMS from NSW Health after 7 days, but do not have to wait for this SMS to leave self-isolation if it has been 7 days since they were tested. Workers do not need to test before leaving self-isolation in NSW and returning to work.

Workers who are contacts can return to work once they have completed any testing and self-isolation period and don’t have any symptoms.

The following NSW Health resources provide further information on leaving self-isolation:

  • people testing positive and managing COVID-19 safely at home
  • information for people exposed to COVID-19

After returning to work, employers should provide staff, visitors, contractors and customers safety information that includes:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 staff, visitors, contractors and customers should self-monitor for
  • Where to seek advice and help
  • Reminders not to enter the premises if they are unwell
  • Advice on physical distancing and personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene and cough etiquette)
  • What infection control measures the business operator has put in place, including cleaning
  • Any other specific advice provided by public health authorities.

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