Virus numbers in Australia are in a constant state of flux, which means safety rules and regulations, state-to-state, are continuously changing. That’s why business event organisers require a robust COVID-safe strategy to maintain the health of staff and the community, and guard themselves against breaching any virus-related regulations.
Adam Poole is a Senior Consultant at Recovery Partners, an occupational health and safety company that offers comprehensive services in workplace safety, health and wellbeing, and rehabilitation. Their range of safety resources includes COVID marshals, risk assessments and information regarding employer obligations surrounding the pandemic and psychological health training. And while COVID may make it feel as though event organisers need to jump through hoops to get corporate occasions up and running, companies such as Recovery Partners are there to help them run as smoothly as possible.
“Business events can easily occur provided COVID risk is managed,” Adam assures. “Venues hosting business events must have a COVID plan developed and implemented, and the requirements of this plan should be made available to clients and people using those facilities. The COVID plan is based on the risk of infection a facility operates under and is readily available through sources like the NSW Department of Health.”
And while much of the event world has been thrown on its head, Adam says that the most significant changes at venues revolve around the number of people allowed, the check in and sanitisation requirements and attendance tracking. Patrons are also disinclined to catch public transport where possible.
Traditionally people attending an event could arrive from multiple points, line up and grab a coffee before the event started and mingle with as many people as we could invite,” he notes.
But in the current COVID Safe environment, business event planners and hosts need to consider the dimensions of an event space to determine the number of people, the safe distances between those people, and the sanitisation requirements when they check in or out.
Adam explains that an event planner’s COVID Safe checklist (based on their venue) should include information on controlled entry and exit points, the layout of the facility including physical safe distance measures and ensuring there are adequate resources for check in and sanitisation.
“By having controlled entry and exit points an event planner can ensure anyone attending their event goes through the proper process for COVID control such as QR code check in, sanitisation and face mask use for example,” Adam says.
This involves having a good understanding of the layout of the event venue to ensure physical safe distancing measures can be followed, as well as making sure patrons are using check-in facilities and can access the bathrooms without compromising physical distancing.
He also insists that having the right tools, resources and information from the right sources is central to ensuring that a detailed and relevant COVID plan is in effect.
“The range information available on COVID is huge and under almost constant update so it’s important to obtain and follow information from reliable sources such as Safe Work Australia, the State and Federal Departments of Health and expert service providers like Recovery Partners,” Adam explains, noting that being in the know is the best defence.
“Event planners need to apply the most up-to-date COVID risk requirements and ensure COVID plans are developed for specific events such as conferences or product launches. Each event will have its own nuances to identify and control,” Adam says, and that organising a review of the premises conducted by one of these providers is also a good move.
Managing risks to workers
Adam explains that regarding worker safety, an in-depth risk assessment should occur to identify the risks associated with work activities and from there the right controls can be recognised and executed.
“Controls for workers might be as simple as wearing a mask when demonstrating a product or more complex such as remote attendance through video conferencing if the number of people who would like to attend is higher than the facilities capacity,” he says.
While running a COVID Safe event is very much about ensuring the physical health of all involved, the working environment also has to address the psychological health implications of systems in place. This is crucial as according to the The Black Dog Institute, “Mental illness is the leading cause of absence and long-term incapacity in the workplace.”
The isolation and anxiety associated with the pandemic has exacerbated these feelings of ill health, which is why work health safety organisations such as Recovery Partners have created services with this in mind.
“Our wellbeing division is able to assist with a wide range of mental health services including resilience training and employee assistance (EAP) programs,” Adam explains.
The Safe Minds Mental Health Training that Recovery Partners offers is delivered to employees by registered psychologists, and covers topics ranging from psychological injury prevention and management, stress management and communication skills to suicide awareness. They also support workers through confidential telephone counselling provided by these experienced psychologists.
The takeaway is that with the right precautions in place, event managers can continue to organise rewarding, effective and safe events in light of the pandemic with reduced interference to work activities.