NCOSS COVID-19 Management and Vax Risk Assessment Toolkit
NCOSS has developed a COVID-19 Vax Risk Assessment Toolkit.
The toolkit aims to help social sector service organisations navigate requirements and issues in deciding whether to mandate vaccination for their workers to keep their work places safe.
These tools can be used to identify and document how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in social service settings, and inform a COVID-19 Management Plan.
The Toolkit comprises:
- Guide to Vax Risk Assessment (updated 20 January 2022)
- Vax Risk Assessment Worksheet
- Resources (updated 20 January 2022)
NCOSS held an online learning session on 18 November 2021, stepping participants through the NCOSS Vax Risk Assessment Toolkit and answering questions from participants.
The recording of this session features:
- How to do a COVID-19 management and vaccination risk assessment, presented by Alison Plant (ASK Insight)
- Q&A panel comprising Savi Manii- Manager (Justice Connect Not-for-Profit Law), Alison Plant (NCOSS Toolkit Developer, ASK Insight) and Michelle Dowd ( NSW Dept Communities and Justice). Facilitated by Megan Nicholson (NCOSS).
A recording of the session and the presentation slides are available here:
NCOSS Vax Risk Assessment Webinar - 18 November 2021
Recording available until 31 May 2021
Why a vaccination toolkit?
Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws oblige all employers to eliminate health and safety risks in the workplace. This applies to workers, clients and any other people who come into contact with your service. If a risk can’t be eliminated, then you must do everything reasonably practicable to minimise the risk.
In the context of COVID-19, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) requires contracted service providers to undertake a risk assessment as part of developing their COVID-19 management plans. This risk assessment will help organisations determine whether to mandate the vaccination of their workers and record how services will mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
DCJ's COVID-19 management and vaccination policy and FAQs may be found here.
The NSW Public Health Order mandates vaccination for all workers of organisations that receive ministerially approved grants under the NSW Health NGO Grant Program or a specified NSW Health Program Grant, unless they have a valid medical exemption. In that case, providers must put in place risk mitigation strategies to protect the worker, clients and other people accessing the workplace.
This Vax Risk Assessment Tool aims to be a basic guide to navigate the process you’ll need to go through, and the issues you’ll need to consider, in deciding what you need to do to keep your workplaces safe.
It includes a Guide for services to use in undertaking the process of a risk assessment, a worksheet for conducting a vax risk assessment, and some examples. We’ve also started to collate materials and FAQs from other sources to provide useful resources in one place.
The Local Community Service Association (LCSA) has made available its COVID-19 Vaccination and Safety policies as templates for other services - click below to download the policies:
This is Version 2.0 of the Toolkit. We will be updating and refining it as we go, based on feedback. Suggestions and questions are most welcome. Please send them to COVID-VAX@ncoss.org.au.
To vax or not to vax?
COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus, and those infected can become severely ill, or even die.
Vaccination is one of the strongest weapons against COVID-19, reducing transmission by between 60% - 70% and protecting those who get infected from serious illness. Infectious diseases expert from the Australian National University, Professor Peter Collignon, has said vaccination reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19 by 90% - 95%.1
Many social sector organisations provide services to some of the most vulnerable individuals, families and communities in NSW. Recognising this, NSW Public Health Order rules requiring businesses to limit access to fully vaccinated people do not apply where a service is "assisting vulnerable members of the public.”
|NSW Public Health Order rules requiring businesses to limit access to fully vaccinated people do not apply where a service is "assisting vulnerable members of the public.”|
Age, disability, severe mental health conditions, and chronic underlying health conditions (like obesity, high blood pressure, and heart, lung, kidney and liver disease), are among the risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19 identified by the Australian Government. Poverty is among the other factors that might affect risk. 2
However, there are a lot of complex and overlapping factors at play that may impact on whether a service can – or should – require their workers and other people who come into contact with the workplace to be vaccinated. These include the requirements of industrial relations laws (awards, enterprise agreements and employment contracts), anti-discrimination laws, and privacy laws, as well as the fact that mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, alone, is unlikely to meet your WHS risk mitigation obligations.
That’s why it’s so important that you undertake a thorough risk assessment to decide whether mandating vaccination for your workers is a “reasonable and lawful” direction as part of your strategies to manage COVID-19 risks. You also need to think about what other measures you may put in place for people accessing your service, in the context of what you do, where and your legal and contractual obligations.