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Staying safe when conducting home visits

What do I need to do when making home visits with:

  • DCJ tenants?
  • child protection clients?
  • foster/kinship carers and their children?

Where possible, limit non-essential face-to-face contact. We recommend arranging a phone or video call instead of home visits if appropriate.

If you need to conduct a home visit, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

Conducting a risk assessment

Conduct a risk assessment via a phone call before visiting the home. Ask if anyone the household has been:

  • Unwell with a fever or experiencing an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough or sore throat) with or without a fever.
  • Identified as a close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.
  • To any identified COVID-19 hotspot locations.
  • Interstate, to a location known to have a high rate of community transmission.

If the answer is yes, consider other ways of conducting the appointment or reschedule for as soon as possible after the 14 day self-isolation period.

If it is not appropriate to contact the family before the visit, the caseworker should assess the risk based on available information.

During the home visit

In the case where a risk assessment could not be made before the visit, staff should take universal precautions:

  • Promote personal hygiene measures (frequent handwashing, reducing face-to-face contact, cough etiquette).
  • Use hand sanitiser.
  • Ensure you maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres. If you are unable to maintain a 1.5 metre physical distance then consider whether the use of a mask is appropriate, using the PPE decision making guide.
  • Conduct environmental cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (with detergent and then disinfection, following and in addition to, detergent cleaning).

Staying safe when conducting visits with clients in the community

What do I need to do when visiting clients in the community at places like:

  • centres or facilities, including day cares or refuges?
  • indoor public places, like schools, hospitals or medical centres?

If your role involves interacting with clients in the community, it is important that you speak with your local team and manager about the circumstances first.

If you can’t schedule an alternative contact method (phone, email, video call), you should screen clients by asking them a few simple questions:

  • Have they been unwell with a fever or experiencing an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough or sore throat) with or without a fever.
  • Have they  been identified as a close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.
  • Have they visited any identified COVID-19 hotspot locations.
  • Have they been interstate, to a location known to have a high rate of community transmission.

Stand at least 1.5 metres away from the client while screening. If a client is sick, ask them to call you for assistance or delay their visit until they are well again.

Protect yourself if a client is sick. If you cannot delay a client meeting:

  • ask the person who is unwell to wear a face mask, if they have one
  • clean surfaces with detergent and then with disinfectant
  • clean hands frequently with soap and water, and with alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • stand at least 1.5 metres away from the client.

Staying safe when working with children: direct contact situations

How do I safely provide direct care and supervision with children in care settings? Or care to children where close physical contact is required, due to their individual needs?  

Where the children are not sick or unwell, universal precautions should be followed:

  • Promote personal hygiene measures (frequent handwashing, reducing face-to-face contact, cough etiquette)
  • Promote social distance (1.5 metres apart and density of no more than 4 square metres per person)
  • Reduce public gatherings (e.g. face-to-face meetings) and reduce the mixing of people in common areas (e.g. staggered lunchtimes)
  • Conduct environmental cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (with detergent and then disinfection, following and in addition to, detergent cleaning).

Staying safe when working in offices where clients visit us

What should we do if someone tells us they have coronavirus when they visit our office? Or someone who is a close contact of theirs has it?

In this case, you would be considered a casual contact. That is someone who has been face-to-face for less than 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for less than 2 hours, as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 when that person was infectious.

Monitor your health closely. If you have had casual contact with someone who is confirmed to have infection with COVID-19 while they were infectious, you should:

  • Monitor your health until 14 days after you were last exposed to the infectious person.
  • Watch for these signs and symptoms:
    • fever
    • cough
    • shortness of breath
    • other early symptoms to watch for are chills, body aches, sore throat, headache and runny nose.

It is good practice to routinely clean surfaces:

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces with detergent solution
  • Clean general surfaces and fittings when visibly soiled and immediately after any spillage.

You are able to continue your usual duties. If you become unwell, please leave the workplace and seek medical advice.

If you are concerned about environmental contamination, purposeful cleaning with a disposable cloth with detergent followed by an anti-viral disinfectant (or one with more than 70% alcohol content) is appropriate. Or by disposable cloth with combined detergent/disinfectant.

How do we meet with high-risk clients who want to come into our office for advice?

Universal precautions should be followed:

  • Promote personal hygiene measures (frequent handwashing, cough etiquette).
  • Ensure hand sanitiser and/or soap is available in your workplace and encourage visitors to use it.
  • Promote social distance (1.5 metres apart).
  • Reduce the time they spend mixing with people in common areas.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people.
  • Conduct environmental cleaning (with detergent and then disinfection, following and in addition to, detergent cleaning) before and after the visit.

How do we check if it’s safe to let a client into our office when they arrive without an appointment? What screening procedures should we follow?

You should screen clients by asking them a few simple questions:

  • Have they been unwell with a fever or experiencing an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough or sore throat) with or without a fever.
  • Have they been identified as a close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.
  • Have they visited any identified COVID-19 hotspot location.
  • Have they been interstate, to a location known to have a high rate of community transmission.

Stand at least 1.5 metres away from the client while screening. If a client is sick, ask them to call your office for assistance or delay their visit until they are well again.

Some of our offices have shifted to appointment only services, and clients who do not have an appointment will be directed to access services by phone, web or app.

How do we let clients know about alternative ways to contact our offices during the pandemic?

There are posters you can print for your local office, to let clients know other ways to contact your office. Some offices have also prepared signage.

What’s the best way to manage hygiene and cleaning during and after client visits?

Steps to reduce the risk of infection include:

  • Attempt to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people where possible.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people.
  • Ensure hand sanitiser and/or soap is available in your workplace and encourage visitors to use it.
  • Wipe down surfaces and devices (mobile phone, keyboard, mouse, etc).

If you are concerned about environmental contamination, purposeful cleaning with a disposable cloth using detergent and followed by disinfectant (or by disposable cloth with combined detergent/disinfectant) is appropriate.

What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is recommended for our front counter staff?

Customer service staff need to use hand sanitiser regularly.

Masks are only recommend where there is close contact. Close contact is greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact with a confirmed case or sharing a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours).

Precautions you can take include:

  • Attempt to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people where possible.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people.
  • Ensure hand sanitiser and/or soap is available in your workplace and encourage visitors to use it.
  • Wipe down surfaces and devices (mobile phone, keyboard, mouse, etc).

Is it better to keep 1.5m or 2m away from clients?

NSW Health suggests to keep a minimum physical distance of 1.5 metres. If you can’t maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres then wear a mask.


Travelling for work

Can I be fined for travelling to work?

At present there are no public health orders that restrict travel within NSW, however staff should minimise non-essential travel within NSW, which can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections to other communities. It is particularly important to minimise travel to remote indigenous communities.

Where travel is essential, it should be undertaken with approval, and using appropriate hygiene and WHS controls.

If community transmission in NSW increases, restrictions could be introduced.

Travel across state boundaries

From 1am Saturday 8 August, all of NSW and ACT are considered ‘COVID-19 hotspots’ under the QLD Border Restrictions Direction (No 11). This means that NSW residents or those who have been in NSW in the past 14 days are not eligible for a Border Pass, unless they fall into certain categories. Those who do fall into those categories are required to undergo hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival at their own cost.

Restrictions on the VIC/NSW border remain in place, under Public Health (COVID-19 Border Control) Order.


Cleaning our workplaces

What’s the best way to use cleaning products at work? How often should we use them?

Cleaning is an essential part of disinfection. Organic matter can inactivate many disinfectants. Cleaning reduces the soil load, allowing the disinfectant to work.

Removing germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19, requires thorough cleaning followed by disinfection.

This information applies to any work environment, including offices, residential settings, pool cars and other facilities.

It is good practice to routinely clean surfaces as follows:

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces with detergent solution.
  • Clean general surfaces and fittings when visibly soiled and immediately after any spillage.

Before cleaning Office Multi-Function Devices (MFD) and Printers, it is important that you read our MFD and printer cleaning guidance.

Find out more about environmental cleaning from the Australian Government factsheet.


What to do when a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19 or has come into contact with someone who has the virus

What will happen when there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 connected to our workplace?

We will use a triage system when there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 connected to a DCJ workplace. Find out more about how this system will work in the Guidelines for potential and confirmed COVID-19 Cases - Managers (Non-Custodial).

What is the NSW Health advice in the event that someone has been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case?

If someone has been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they will be contacted as part of NSW Health contact tracing and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. If they begin to develop any symptoms, they must seek medical attention.

If someone has been in contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 or any other illness, they are to self-monitor for symptoms but are not required to self-isolate.

If anyone is feeling unwell, they should stay away from work and seek medical advice.

Is the advice from DCJ any different if someone has been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case?

DCJ follows the medical advice and protocols of NSW Health. We actively encourage staff to work from home where possible, and to practice social distancing and hygiene standards as per NSW Health guidelines.

Should we be contacting any people that a confirmed case had close contact with while at work?

Contact tracing is being managed by the Ministry of Health, local Public Health Units and Service Now. They are following up for confirmed cases of COVID-19. You do not need to contact anyone yourself, although your workplace may be contacted if there were people there that the case cannot identify.

You may be asked about the interaction of the person with others and the environment, so that an appropriate risk assessment can be undertaken.

What do I do if one of my staff members tells me that that are being tested or have a confirmed case of COVID-19?  Who do I call, what steps do I need to take, will I be contacted by NSW Health?

There is no need to contact NSW Health if someone is suspected, being tested or has a confirmed case of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a notifiable disease under legislation, and as such will be reported by the diagnostic laboratory when there is a positive result.

If your team member is being tested for COVID-19, they should self-isolate until the results are known. They must not to come to work, and must follow self-isolation protocols.

If your team member is tested because they work directly with clients and feel a little unwell, they should self-isolate until the results are known. If the test is negative for COVID-19, they can return to work as soon as they feel healthy.

If the team member is identified as a close contact and is tested after developing symptoms, they must complete 14 days of self isolation, even if the test returns negative.

If your team member has a positive COVID-19 test result, NSW Health will conduct contact tracing. All close contacts with the diagnosed individual will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

There is no need to panic. Even if there is a confirmed case, only close contacts are required to self-isolate.

What do I need to do if one of my team members has recovered from COVID-19 and wants to return to work?

Public Health will release a people from home isolation when they have met the following conditions:

  • For asymptomatic people, 10 days post-testing
  • For people with mild illness, a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset and 72 hours (3 days) after their last symptoms
  • For people working in locations that involve residential care, a correctional facility or youth detention workers, they must record a  negative swab on at least two samples taken 24 hours apart after last showing symptoms before returning to work.

Once the team member has been released by Public Health, they are safe to return to work.

What do I need to if one of my team members has completed self-isolation after close contact with a COVID-19 case?

If your team member was a close contact of a confirmed case, but experienced no symptoms and did not test positive for COVID-19 during their 14-day self-isolation, they are ready to return to work. There is no need for them to provide proof of a negative test swab.


Handling official documents

What is the safest way to handle official documents that require original signatures and witnesses?

Documents could be a source of infection if they have been contaminated with droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

To limit document contamination, enforce the use of hand sanitizer before and after handling documents.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).


Official meetings with partners, suppliers and peaks

What are the best ways to hold meetings remotely?

Where possible, please defer all large meetings. Try to hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call.


Returning to the office

How can employees safely return to the office when instructed to do so?

NSW Public health orders currently include a direction an employer must allow an employee to work at the person’s place of residence if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

While this order remains in place, DCJ Divisions should ensure staff who are able to work from home to continue to do so, while planning for staged return to DCJ workplaces as restrictions ease and with approval of the DCJ Executive.

In preparation for the eventual return of staff to workplaces when public health orders allow, and to ensure the safety of those that have remained working from offices and operational locations, it is important to continue to eliminate or control the exposure of COVID-19 to employees.

We have developed the Guidelines for COVID-Safe Workplace Operations to support the recommissioning and operation of DCJ Workplaces to ensure they are COVID-Safe. The Guidelines explain the application of public health orders to DCJ workplaces, and provide detailed guidance to support development of COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plans, which are a requirement for all DCJ workplaces.

The COVID-Safe workplace page contains the guidelines, safety plan templates and other supporting information.

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Last updated: 18 Aug 2020