Your rights and responsibilities

< Back to COVID-19 Homepage

Your safety and PPE 

Last updated 17 January 2022.

Please note the advice provided on these pages is intended as general advice. If you have specific concerns, please contact the Duty Officer to discuss your particular circumstances by email [email protected]

Additional information can be found at the Department of Health website.

If you are providing care for patients who have or are suspected to have coronavirus, your employer must provide you with appropriate PPE to ensure you can do your job safely.

The PPE must be readily accessible to you so you can access it when you need it. Your employer also needs to ensure you are trained in how to use the PPE safely.

 

For more information visit SA Health's PPE Matrix and infection control recommendations. This document provides advice on what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required and what type of room is appropriate for the patient. The matrix has been developed by SA Health Infectious Disease Physicians for use in the care of hospital patients with suspected and confirmed COVID-19.

For more information view the COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Decision Matrix.

Report PPE concerns

If you have concerns that your employer is not providing you with the necessary PPE (or is making it very difficult to access) and/or is not training people in its safe use, then you should:

  1. Put in an incident report at your workplace AND
  2. Escalate your concerns to your employer in writing and ask for an urgent response.

If your concerns are not being taken seriously, contact the Duty Officer. You can also contact SafeWork SA on 1800 777 209 in an emergency.

A. Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require employers to take every step, so far as reasonably practicable, to eliminate or minimise the risk of workers and others contracting COVID-19. This will require employers to have a COVID-19 work plan containing a range of control measures.

Employers must genuinely consult workers and unions on measures to control the health and safety risks of COVID-19. Workers should be provided with clear direction and guidance about what is expected of them, in particular:

  • workers should know when to stay away from the workplace
  • what action to take if they become unwell, and
  • what symptoms to be concerned about.

We know that the most effective action employers can take is to ask employees to identify potential exposure to COVID-19 and to financially support them to self-isolate with paid special leave. This is something the ANMF is advocating for.

A. Some areas of the health care system are likely to experience high demand because of the coronavirus (for example Intensive Care Units, emergency departments and pathology laboratories). While employers can ask their employees to work additional hours, those additional hours must be reasonable.

If the pandemic worsens, it will be critical that employers manage the fatigue and general wellbeing of employees. This will usually be in accordance with workplace specific Fatigue Management Systems. Employers should consider all available options to meet increased or changed service needs, including offering additional hours to part-time and casual employees, offering paid overtime or time-off-in-lieu arrangements or engaging additional resources.

A. Your health and safety is paramount.

If you’ve got concerns, the first step should be to talk to your employer and the Health and Safety Representative.

Stopping or leaving work because of a coronavirus concern should only occur if there is a direct or imminent risk to your health. This will depend on the circumstances, but could include:

  • That you have firm evidence you might be exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus; or
  • That you have firm evidence you might be exposed to someone who has travelled to a high-risk country in the last 14 days.

In these circumstances, Health and Safety Representatives may direct a stoppage of work.

A. We would advise it is safe to continue to perform such tests if necessary for patient care, however it would be worth chatting to your employer to ensure the appropriate safety protocols are in place to ensure the safety of staff – making sure nurses are supplied with proper PPE, e.g., wearing goggles, surgical masks, etc, while undertaking the test if that is deemed appropriate.

Here is a link to a webpage the government has formulated regarding recommendations for the use of PPE during hospital care of people with COVID-19. This will obviously just be a guide as you are not a hospital and not dealing with people infected with COVID-19, but may be helpful.

A.Workers who contract COVID-19 in the course of their employment may be able to claim workers' compensation benefits for any time lost or medical care required.

However, it may be challenging to prove that work was the significant contributing cause of the injury in light of the growing number of community infections. You should contact the Duty Officer for assistance if you are unable to work due to contracting COVID-19 at work.

A. It is recommended that staff do not wear their uniform home. Staff should wear a clean uniform daily, and if possible, wear other clothing to work and change before leaving work. Uniforms should be placed in a plastic bag to take home and should be washed, as soon as you get home, in hot water and washing detergent in a separate load.

Prior to washing, do not shake clothing and clothes should be dried in a dryer, or outside in sunshine.

Shoes should be left at the entry door and staff should shower before contact with any family members or items in the home.

Discussion with your obstetrician/physician would be recommended as to your suitability to continue working.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:

RANZCOG recommends that, where possible, pregnant health care workers be allocated to patients, and duties, that have reduced exposure to patients with, or suspected to have COVID-19 infection. All personnel should observe strict hygiene protocols and have full access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The College also urges employers to be sensitive to the fact that pregnant women are, appropriately, often anxious about their own health and protective of their unborn baby. Consideration should be given to reallocation to lower-risk duties, working from home, or leave of absence.

Here is a link to a webpage with further information that may be helpful.

 

It is important to discuss with your employer any concerns that you may have and where possible other options to work placement to be considered if needed.

A. No, National Boards expect all health practitioners to facilitate access to care regardless of someone’s vaccination status.

A joint statement from the 15 National Boards and Ahpra has been published to provide guidance to Australian registered health practitioners in relation to the facilitation of access to care in the current COVID-19 environment.

The guidance reinforces existing codes and guidelines and makes clear that National Boards expect practitioners to facilitate access to care regardless of someone’s vaccination status. People cannot be denied care if steps can be taken to keep the person, health practitioners and their staff safe.

The Guidance can be accessed here.

 

A. SA Health has developed a risk matrix re: close contacts. The matrix will identify high and low risks for close contacts

The document is called Health Care Worker Close Contact or Confirmed COVID-19: Return to Work Guideline

The document will be available on the SA Health website. Once released a link to the document will be added to the Q&A.

Further information about the requirements for close contacts and quarantining can be found in the COVID-19 CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units.

 

If you have any concerns, contact your direct manager to discuss.

A. The current requirements should be accessed at the SA Health website.

The Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination No 5) Direction 2021 has been released and it comes into effect at 12:01 am on 29 January 2022 which revokes the Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination No 4) Direction 2021.

The SA Health webpage also includes some commonly asked questions regarding healthcare setting workers.

A. Vaccinations are available now for anyone over the age of 5 in South Australia.

COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are recommended to maintain immunity against the virus.

All people aged 18 and over who have had their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least four months ago are eligible for a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 booster dose.

The eligibility for Booster doses is under continual review so to ensure you are accessing the most up to date information regarding eligibility for Booster doses then further information is available on the SA Health website.

 

A. Rapid antigen tests (RAT) can now be used to diagnose Covid-19 in South Australia, without the use of a PCR test to confirm the result.

The testing criteria state that if you are deemed a close contact then you can use a RAT for your initial test and then your day 6 test.

If you are a close contact, you can access a kit of two free rapid antigen tests to complete your required test.

You must register before collecting your kits from the RAT Collection Point.

Rapid antigen tests are an alternative to standard PCR testing for close contacts.

RATs can also be purchased and used by individuals prior to entering high-risk settings or to check their Covid status if concerned.

It is a legal requirement that all positive RAT results are reported to SA Health, this can be done online or via the SA COVID-19 Information line on 1800 253 787.

A PCR test should be used if you develop any symptoms of Covid and have not been deemed a close contact or if you have symptoms but have tested negative on a rapid antigen test.

You can be directed to get a PCR by SA Health or SA Police.

The requirements around testing are reviewed frequently by SA Health and might change so we recommend accessing the most up-to-date information via this link.

 

A. The Office for Ageing Well within SA Health have developed a fact sheet for Residential Aged Care facilities - Residential Aged Care Facilities Interim guidance for the management of COVID-19 outbreaks, which will be available to download on their website. The fact sheet states:

Return to work for staff who have been deemed a ‘close contact’ following exposure to COVID-19 in the community Where the RACF is experiencing workforce shortages, the following testing/quarantine regime can be followed to enable a staff member who has been deemed a ‘close contact’ to return to work:
  • If the staff member’s initial PCR is negative, the staff member may return to work in full PPE. They must still quarantine at all other times when not at work, in line with SA Health directions.
  • The staff member must get a COVID-19 PCR test on day 6 after exposure (a negative day 6 PCR test is required to be released from quarantine).
  • The staff member must submit to daily RAT prior to commencing work in a RACF for 14 days after exposure.

Staff returning to work under these circumstances must wear appropriate PPE at all times when at work and should take breaks outside and away from others.

Due to the high volume of requests and limited resources to conduct regular, frequent domiciliary PCR testing in RACF, rapid antigen testing (RAT) may be used in place of PCR tests.

The Australian Government Department of Health have also created interim guidance on managing the workforce in regard to Covid-19 in aged care and this can be accessed here.

 

A. As the Department of Health and Wellbeing (DHW) aligns to the Public Services Act, currently you will not be able to continue with deductions.

ANMF(SA) have and will continue to advocate for this change to prevent any impacts on staff that choose to work in this service.

Regular discussions have occurred with SA Health on this matter and hopefully, a solution will be in place soon to enable staff to continue to access salary sacrifice.

A. The ANMF (SA Branch) continues to remind health care workers not to wear their uniform home.

Staff should wear a clean uniform/ scrub daily, and if possible, wear other clothing to work and change before leaving work.

Any scrubs that are provided by your site should not be taken home to wash and should be returned to the laundry system.

Domestic laundering can be effective in decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 from uniforms where workplace laundering is not possible.

  • For Uniforms and personally owned scrubs, they should be placed in a plastic bag to take home and should be washed separately as soon as you get home. Prior to washing, do not shake clothing.
  • General laundering should involve a hot wash with laundry detergent at 40°C-60°C, followed by a tumble-dry and ironing routine.
  • Ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight in the outdoor environment has demonstrated significant virucidal qualities, particularly for enveloped viruses.
  • Wear fresh, clean uniform to each shift — Adhere to additional employer guidelines for uniform laundering.
  • Shoes should be left at the entry door and staff should shower before contact with any family members or items in the home.

Please find further information here.


The ANMF (SA Branch) website contains information, advice and guidance to assist ANMF (SA Branch) members and inform a broad audience of users. While every effort is made to ensure the site provides accurate and expert information and guidance, the ANMF (SA Branch) and the website owners and administrators shall not be liable to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information stored on this website. The ANMF (SA Branch) is not responsible for the content of any linked external website. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind and no liability is accepted in respect to the content of such sites. Although we aim to maintain external links to other websites, the ANMF (SA Branch) cannot guarantee that these links will work and has no control over the availability or reliability of linked pages.