For the purposes of this policy we refer to any infection caused by pathogens as any infectious agent that can cause disease, illness or death to their host. This broad definition of pathogens includes a virus, bacterium, protozoan, prion, viroid, fungus or parasite.
Workers have two areas of consideration in the area of communicable disease or infection;
- the risk of being infected; or
- the risk of transferring an infection to a fellow employee, customer or resident of a customer.
The basis of good infection control in the workplace is to assume that everyone is potentially infectious, including oneself and proper infection control procedures must be followed at all times.
Infection can come from a very wide variety of vectors including;
- person to person, typically from the transfer of bodily fluids;
- airborne contamination or contaminated surfaces;
- exposure from an infected object such as sharps;
- consuming contaminated food, water or other drink;
- exposure to infected species, organic matter or soil from pathogens, viruses, bacteria, microorganisms, spores, etc.
To prevent the risk from infection, all workers are required to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the risk from infection by conducting a job hazard analysis and following relevant government guidelines, community standards and expectations.
In many cases, effective infection control is enhanced by adopting the following precautions in the workplace;
- hand hygiene;
- respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette;
- the use of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”);
- keep the workplace clean and hygienic;
- stay home when you’re unwell, especially if you have a fever or diarrhea, or are vomiting.
Under certain circumstances, employees may also be required to self-quarantine for an extended period or limit their interaction with people (by working from home) to eliminate the risk from the spread of serious infection.
Risk Group Classification
An Australian Standard AS/NZS 2243.3:2010 establishes the risk classification to humans in a laboratory environment that forms a suitable basis for classification for infection as follows;
- Risk Group 1 (RG1) pathogens have the lowest individual and community risk and include agents that rarely cause infection in healthy hosts.
- Risk Group 2 (RG2) pathogens may cause disease in a healthy host but are difficult to transmit, don’t usually cause serious or life-threatening illness and are readily treated or prevented.
- Risk Group 3 (RG3) pathogens are those that usually cause serious disease and may present a serious risk to people. A Risk Group 3 agent may also present significant community risk if spread in the environment, but there are usually effective measures for treatment and/or prevention.
- Risk Group 4 (RG4) pathogens are those that present significant individual and community risks and usually produce life-threatening disease, are readily transmissible and effective prevention and/or treatment is not usually available.
Self Quarantine & Medical Release - Risk Group 2
In certain circumstances employees are required to follow the infection controls outlined in this policy which may include self-quarantine if they suspect they have been infected from a Risk Group 2 pathogen and could pose a risk to vulnerable or immunocompromised people. Particular attention applies to people working in healthcare or aged care facilities.
Self Quarantine & Medical Release - Risk Group 3
It is expected that all workers self-quarantine for serious infection or the risk from serious infection related to Risk Group 3 (RG3) prior to returning to work;
- where an employee believes or reasonably believes they have been exposed or infected;
- where an employee has travelled to or within a country or location where the endemic population is at risk from an RG3 or RG4 pathogen;
In these cases, the worker will require doctor's approval in the form of a medical release certificate prior to returning to work and after the duration of the infection plus any additional time as directed by medical advice.
Medical Quarantine & Medical Release - Risk Group 4
Where a worker is directly exposed to a Risk Group 4 (RG4) pathogen, workers must not return to work, and subject to medical advice is likely to be medically isolated. In these cases, the worker will require doctor's approval in the form of a medical release certificate prior to returning to work.
Where an employee is required to be quarantined they shall be entitled to have access to their statutory entitlements such as personal leave or accrued annual leave and in special circumstances may also have access to accrued long service leave.
Epidemics & Pandemics
Where a worker is at risk of infection during the course of their normal duties during an epidemic or pandemic then any discretionary events or activities including business related travel must be reviewed. Where the review determines the risk of infection to an employee is great then that activity or travel must not continue.
This policy shall be administered and reviewed periodically