Coronavirus & Safety Due Diligence

April 6, 2020

A fabulous array of material has emerged on government websites regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Worksafe Australia has published an interesting article on the connection to WHS legislation. This emphasises that employers have a duty of care to eliminate or minimise risk, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFAIRP).

There then follows numerous precautions described in enormous and voluminous detail. In an attempt to cut to the chase, R2A decided to apply our usual precautionary approach to the whole thing to see if we clarify what all this means.

So far as we can tell, the core difficulty with the new coronavirus is that it is very, very contagious. Much more so than ordinary flu.

This means it will escalate with startling speed and easily overwhelm our medical resources unless stringent measures to reduce the infection rate are implemented.

To calculate the infection rate, a probabilistic epidemiological model appears to be being used, conceptually shown above. That is, all the individual transmission pathways may not be fully understood, but an overall probabilistic transmissivity model can be created.

From a statistical viewpoint, if enough people are involved, the predictions should be quite robust and is presumably the basis of our governments’ concerns.

Causal workplace infection pathway single line threat barrier diagram

Following the hierarchy of controls, the threat-barrier diagram above identifies the elimination option (a vaccine), the precautions such as isolation and infection control prior to the loss of control point and then the mitigation options including hospitalisation which act after the loss of control point.

However, from the perspective of any single infection, there will likely be a single causal chain of events, which can be interrupted in various ways, particularly following the hierarchy of controls enshrined in the WHS legislation.

Such an understanding enables SFAIRP to be demonstrated. There would be different sequences for different paths; family, hospitals, workplace, team sports and the like.

From an employer /employee perspective, we think the single line threat-barrier diagram shown above is a reasonable first cut.

If you'd like to learn more about our Safety Due Diligence approach, read our White Paper here.

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