Vaccine-only approach not enough for ongoing workplace safety post-lockdown, says OzSAGE

Vaccine-only approach not enough for ongoing workplace safety post-lockdown, says OzSAGE

Independent expert organisation OzSAGE has urged employers to extend the usual health and safety measures to areas like ventilation, workplace hygiene and mask wearing, emphasising "a vaccine-only approach is not enough" as workers return to offices from lockdowns.

Despite the high rate of vaccination in NSW, after Greater Sydney emerged from lockdown yesterday the multidisciplinary network of Australian experts is adamant that in addition to vaccine requirements, further optional health orders are necessary.

NSW has made it optional for office workers to wear masks as part of the Perrottet government’s revised roadmap, and has suggested scrapping general indoor mask mandates earlier than the originally proposed date of 1 December. 

However, Professor Raina Macintyre from OzSAGE says this decision could result in a dramatic surge in infections, and that masks should remain a core part of workplaces’ health response. 

“Once we accept that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, it is clear that safe indoor air is essential and that masks indoors will play a role in safe working for some time,” says Macintyre. 

“The current vaccines are not enough to control the Delta variant - If we open up with safe indoor air and a vaccine-PLUS as a strategy, we may avoid a crippling cycle of repeated lockdowns.” 

OzSAGE says these measures are particularly important given that many small businesses do not have the adequate resources or information to be reasonably “COVID-safe”.  

As a result, workplace risk management now falls into the hands of workers and employers, which OzSAGE representative Professor Jason Monty says will ultimately benefit businesses if followed correctly. 

“Embedding layers of controls against pandemic disease into your business, such as safe air and masking when needed, will make it far more likely that your business will remain open, not be subject to disruptions, nor lose key staff or clients to illness,” Monty said. 

“Despite vaccination levels, all controls are important to protect health as immunity to the vaccine wanes, and reduce transmission.” 

Updated at 12.52pm AEDT on 12 October 2021.

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