COVID-19 Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Supports for Schools

The latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for schools is available here.

The below page is part of the Department's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management System. It provides tailored advice and links to support for managing Coronavirus (COVID-19) related OHS risks and matters relating to employee, health, safety and wellbeing.

Information for Principals

The Department is committed to providing support that is relevant to the current circumstances, and helps address and manage the health, safety and wellbeing needs of staff during the transition back to on-site teaching. It is now more important than ever to look after ourselves and access the supports that are available.

Existing support services that have previously been available to staff remain available. Many services have been tailored to be more relevant, and some new supports and initiatives are being introduced. Further details on the relevant resources, services and policies to support staff health, safety and wellbeing through this time can be found below.  

Principal Health and Wellbeing

Make sure you're looking after your own wellbeing through this time by using the Principal Health and Wellbeing Strategy services, including:

  • Proactive Wellbeing Supervision (1300 326 941) has been extended to include assistant principals during 2020, and will offer coaching for all of the principal-class to be effective wellbeing leaders, and support the health and wellbeing of their school staff within the current context.

  • Principal Mentor Program (8199 2986) will be increasing its capacity to cater for higher demand, which matches current principals with a highly skilled recently retired principal.

  • Early Intervention Program (1300 090 924) will be providing case management and psychological treatment services by phone and video.

  • Principal Health Checks (8396 0266) are now available via your own personal General Practitioner (GP).

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

The Department is providing tailored support to principals and staff to manage the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Term 2. There are two streams to this work:

  • Centrally-managed consultation and risk management – is focused on relaying the latest health and safety advice to schools, triaging Coronavirus questions for escalated resolution, and providing triaged support to schools for issues that are unable to be resolved locally.

  • Locally-managed consultation and risk management – principals should focus on engagement with their local Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and Health and Safety Committees (HSC) to enable implementation at their sites of the latest health and safety advice. It is important that principals make it clear to staff that their health, safety and wellbeing, and that of their students, is the paramount objective of Term 2. Contact your Regional OHS Officer for assistance with local consultation if required. A draft agenda (link) has been developed for Health and Safety Committee (HSC) meetings to assist in facilitating consultation and identifying and manging risks.

Intensive OHS Support initiative for COVID-19

The Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Division has developed a tailored Safety Management Plan for COVID-19 on behalf of schools, which summarises the relevant risks and controls.

The OHS Advisory service will call each school in Term 2 to see if the Safety Management Plan requires tailoring to the local context, and complete this on behalf of the school if required.

Principals should discuss how to implement the latest health and safety advice (summarised in the Safety Management Plan) with their staff, including consultation with HSRs and their Health and Safety Committees (if applicable) about any unique local issues, and implement the relevant controls to the maximum extent reasonably practicable.

If there are issues that require escalation for support (such as issues in implementing the controls, or additional risks that are not covered by the Safety Management Plan), schools should contact the OHS Advisory Service (1300 074 715).

Reporting

The Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Division is monitoring eduSafe reports to triage support requirements. Principals should encourage staff to make eduSafe reports, and if receiving multiple reports, contact the OHS Advisory Service for assistance to manage multiple reports via a single management plan. Principals are reminded they can also make eduSafe reports, if required.

Extra supports for people managers

Extra support and guidance is available via EAP's Manager Assist, including via video-conference. EAP can be contacted on 1300 361 008.

There will also be access to proactive support for management of staff or families who become unwell. Further details will become available soon.

Related OHS Management System (OHSMS) Policies

This section summarises the key OHSMS policies and how they apply to the situation of managing the response to COVID-19 risks.

Infection Control

  • For managing the situation in relation to COVID-19, principals should follow the guidance provided in The Return to School Operations Guide  in relation to vulnerable cohorts, physical distancing and cleaning.

  • Refer to the Department's guidance for the use of Personal Protective Equipment in education. An instructional video on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been developed and can be found on the Resources to help run your school intranet page.

  • Principals must ensure that all staff who may need to use PPE have been provided with the appropriate information and training. They should allow staff the time to read this guidance and watch the video. This could be done by spending time on these items in a staff meeting, as well as sending it to HSRs and HSC.

  • Refer to ChemWatch to access the hand sanitiser safety data sheet.

  • If there are issues that require escalation for support (such as issues in implementing the guidance), schools should contact the OHS Advisory Service (1300 074 715).

  • The existing First Aid and Infection Control OHSMS Procedure is here.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • Be open and available to your staff to hear any questions or concerns they have. For any questions you can't answer, direct your staff to the Coronavirus questions page.

  • Acknowledge how people are feeling and make a point of checking in often, even if it's just a quick chat every couple of days to see how they are adjusting

  • Make sure to communicate available facts around measures in place to make staff feel safe and supported.  While answers to questions raised may not always be known, ensuring staff feel heard can help create psychological safety in times of uncertainty.

  • Share stories about positive experiences around returning to onsite teaching and reinforce the meaning and purpose around working with young people. Encourage reflections on learnings and new practices that worked during the lockdown and ways to continue that when transitioning back.

  • Continue opportunities for online socialisation where in person catch-ups are difficult to facilitate. This also allows those continuing to work from home to feel like they're part of the team. Organise social catch ups, virtual coffee dates, promote banter, humour, light relief in email threads or on group pages to lift spirits and stay connected.

  • Encourage your staff to access individualised support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which now includes counselling via video-conference. You can also encourage them to access content that is available through the EAP Platform (User ID: detvic; Password: detvic1)

  • Please remind staff that our EAP is available to their immediate family members as well (18 years old and above). For more information on video-counselling through EAP, please refer to  Video Counselling Frequently Asked Questions.

  • The Department's conflict resolution services also remain available, including for staff and parent issues. Call 1300 687 633 to access the service.

  • The relevant OHSMS policy is here.

 Wellbeing Webinars

The Department has recently introduced a new series of free webinars on Staying Safe and Well and Leading for Wellbeing. The Staying Safe and Wellbeing series includes topics such as Managing anxiety through COVID-19, Having wellbeing conversations with peers, and Resilience in times of uncertainty. The Leading for Wellbeing series offer sessions like Supporting your team's mental health and wellbeing through times of uncertainty and Leadership in times of crisis: A strategic approach to supporting wellbeing. The sessions provide practical mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies for use through COVID-19 and beyond.

Visit the Wellbeing Webinars intranet page to see the topics on offer and find the sessions that will be most useful for you at this time. Encourage staff to sign up to these free sessions to support their mental health and wellbeing.

 Virtual Gym

School staff can access a virtual gym, with free workouts, recipes and articles, run by Corporate Health Management (CHM) Healthstream. Visit the intranet article for more details. 

To help keep up motivation, the Premier's Active April has been extended beyond the month of April. The Victorian Government Initiative will continue throughout May to help Victorians get their 30 minutes a day of physical activity. It's another great resource of workout videos and daily physical activity tips, to help you find ways to meet your daily activity targets. Available through the mobile app or website, register for free and challenge your family, friends and colleagues to keep active while indoors too.

Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA)

  • Principals should remind their school community of the shared responsibility for maintaining respectful school environments as they transition back to onsite learning. Principals may wish to use the template 'Statement of Values', which sets out clear expectations for how members of the school community – principals, teachers, parents, students and visitors – should behave. This helps deal with behaviours when they fall short. If an incident occurs, there is also a new post-incident checklist

Working Alone, in Isolation or from Home

  • Staff can access free advice and support via video-conference from the Department's OHS Advisory Service (1300 074 715) to ensure they have a safe workstation set-up at home. Access support via phone or email safety@edumail.vic.gov.au.

Managing Injured Workers and Return to Work Coordinator Obligations

The Department will continue to provide tailored support to principals and school leaders managing workers compensation claims.

For principals and Return to Work Coordinators, please remain connected with your staff who may be unwell or injured at this time, particularly those on return to work or Workers Compensation arrangements. Guidance documents, templates and FAQs can be found at the Return to Work Coordinator Portal

For principals needing to seek advice about a medical certificate (not associated with a workers compensation claim), you may contact Employee Relations or the Medical Advisory Service (phone: 1300 031 057, or email: DET@injurynet.com.au).

For workers compensation matters, you can contact the Return to Work and Compensation team for support on 03 7022 0780.

Information for Staff

The Department is committed to providing support that is relevant to the current circumstances, and helps address and manage the health, safety and wellbeing needs of staff during this time. It is now more important than ever to look after one another and access the supports that are available.

Existing support services that have previously been available to staff remain available. Many services have been tailored to be more relevant, and some new supports and initiatives are being introduced. Further details on the relevant resources, services and policies to support staff health, safety and wellbeing through this time can be found below.

Staying mentally healthy and well

Staying engaged and boosting team morale is important. Make a point of checking in with other staff, even if it's just a quick chat every couple of days. If you've setup a buddy system to call each other to check in and talk during the lockdown, continue to do so as school transitions back. We are all in this together and many of us will be experiencing similar challenges. Lean on each other to help find ways to get through. 

Continue opportunities for online socialisation where in person catch-ups are difficult to facilitate. This also allows those continuing to work from home to feel like they're part of the team. Organise social catch ups, virtual coffee dates, promote banter, humour, light relief in email threads or on group pages to lift spirits and stay connected.

Share stories about positive experiences around returning to onsite teaching and reconnecting with students. Remember to reflect on learnings and new practices that worked during the lockdown and ways to continue that when transitioning back.

Be open with your principal and leadership team about any questions or concerns you have. For any questions they can't answer, or you're not comfortable to ask, submit your question on the Coronavirus questions page. You can seek support from your local Health and Safety Representative (HSR).

Employee Assistance Program and EAP Platform

If you or your family need that little bit of extra support, personalised over-the-phone or video counselling is available 24/7 through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This service is available to all Department staff (including all school staff) and their immediate families (aged 18 years and over). This now includes school council employees and casual relief teachers. Call 1300 361 008 to make a booking. For more information on video-counselling through EAP, please refer to  Video Counselling Frequently Asked Questions.

You can also access and share content that is available through the EAP Platform. You'll find support, guidance, information and strategies to manage issues relating to COVID-19, family, health, life and more. Some great articles that are relevant right now are talking to your children about COVID-19 and quick tips for keeping a positive attitude. (User ID: detvic; Password: detvic1)

Wellbeing Webinars

The Department has recently introduced a new series of free webinars on Staying Safe and Well and Leading for Wellbeing. The Staying Safe and Wellbeing series includes topics such as Managing anxiety through COVID-19, Having wellbeing conversations with peers, and Resilience in times of uncertainty. The sessions provide practical mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies for use through COVID-19 and beyond.

Visit the Wellbeing Webinars intranet page to see the topics on offer and find the sessions that will be most useful for you at this time.

 Virtual Gym

School staff can access a virtual gym, with free workouts, recipes and articles, run by Corporate Health Management (CHM) Healthstream. Visit the intranet article for more details. 

To help keep up motivation, the Premier's Active April has been extended beyond the month of April. The Victorian Government Initiative will continue throughout May to help Victorians get their 30 minutes a day of physical activity . It's another great resource of workout videos and daily physical activity tips, to help you find ways to meet your daily activity targets. Available through the mobile app or website, register for free and challenge your family, friends and colleagues to keep active while indoors too

Working from home safely and productively

For staff continuing to work from home, it's important to make sure your workstation is set up correctly to avoid injury and to minimise any safety risks around you. Use the Working from Home-Ergonomic Guide and Working from Home Safely and Productively tip sheets to help set up a safe work area. For further advice, or free ergonomic assessments via phone or video-conference, contact the Department's OHS Advisory Service (1300 074 715).

The Working Alone, in Isolation or from Home policy has been updated with a summary OHS guidance for staff when working from home. Staff can also watch the eLearn on Ergonomics on LearnED and may wish to revisit it as they set-up their workstation (while it's not tailored to home set-ups, it still contains some good general advice).

If you are injured or on a workers' compensation claim

Your principal or Return to Work Coordinator will stay in touch with you throughout this time and work with you to adapt your return to work strategy as required. It's important to proactively reach out if there is immediate support or assistance you require. They are here to support you during this time.

Participate in consultation with Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and Health and Safety Committees (HSC)

Teaching and education support staff are often best placed to identify health and safety hazards and issues in the workplace and are often in the best position to suggest appropriate controls for those hazards. Bring any issues or concerns to the attention of your Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and Health and Safety Committee (if applicable). This will help ensure the latest health and safety advice is implemented on your site(s) to the extent reasonably practicable.

Reporting

 All staff are encouraged to make eduSafe reports and it's important to bring any issues to the attention of your principal or manager.

 Infection Control

 For managing the situation in relation to COVID-19, schools should follow the guidance provided in The Return to School Operations Guide  in relation to vulnerable cohorts, physical distancing and cleaning.

All staff who may need to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must review the Department's guidance for the use of Personal Protective Equipment in education. As well as an instructional video on the use of PPE which has been developed and can be found on the Resources to help run your school intranet page. The existing First Aid and Infection Control OHSMS policy is here.

 Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA)

The introduction of new, and more frequent channels of communication between teachers and parents is ideal for learning from home, and it highlights the need for positive and respectful relationships and behaviour. The school community has a shared responsibility for maintaining respectful school environments as they transition to learning from home. Inappropriate behaviour towards school staff is never OK, including online.

Your principal may have developed a 'Statement of Values', which sets out clear expectations for how members of the school community – principals, teachers, parents, students and visitors – should behave. This helps deal with behaviours when they fall short. If an incident occurs, there is also a new post-incident checklist. Bring any issues to the attention of your principal, and remember to debrief and access further support if you have been affected physically or mentally. Refer to the updated Occupational Violence and Aggression in Schools Policy and Procedure for more information.

Information for Health and Safety Representatives

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) have a key role to play in local consultation and implementation of the latest health and safety guidance, and peer support to colleagues during this challenging time.

The Department is providing tailored support to principals and staff to manage the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19). There are two streams to this work:

  • Locally-managed consultation and risk management – Health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students is a key objective of Term 2. HSRs can help promote within their Designated Work Groups that teaching and education support staff are often best placed to identify health and safety hazards and issues in the workplace and are often in the best position to suggest appropriate controls for those hazards. HSRs can help represent the health and safety interests and concerns to their principal or Management OHS Nominees, such as via their HSC (if applicable). HSRs and HSC members should engage with their principals and school leaders constructively, to ensure the latest health and safety advice is implemented on their sites to the extent reasonably practicable. HSRs can also encourage the reporting of issues to their principal or Management OHS Nominees, such as via eduSafe, and can also assist with the resolution of reported matters.

  • Centrally-managed consultation and risk management – HSRs can familiarise themselves with the latest health and safety guidance from the Department, and help explain this to their colleagues within their Designated Work Groups. Where local implementation issues arise that cannot be resolved locally, HSRs can work with their principals and Management OHS Nominees to promote the central consultation process via the Coronavirus questions page.

  • The Department has recently introduced a new series of free webinars on Staying Safe and Well and Leading for Wellbeing. The Staying Safe and Wellbeing series includes topics such as Managing anxiety through COVID-19, having wellbeing conversations with peers, and Resilience in times of uncertainty. The sessions provide practical mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies for use through COVID-19 and beyond. As a HSR, you may be particularly interested in accessing the Having wellbeing conversations with peers as you support your colleagues through this transition. Visit the Wellbeing Webinars intranet page to see the topics on offer and find the sessions that will be most useful for you at this time.

Intensive OHS Support initiative for COVID-19

 The Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Division has developed a tailored Safety Management Plan for COVID-19 on behalf of schools, which summarises the relevant risks and controls. The OHS Advisory service will call each school in Term 2 to see if the Safety Management Plan requires tailoring to the local context, and complete this on behalf of the school if required.

 All staff, including Health and Safety Representatives, can also contact the OHS Advisory for free advice and support:

  • Phone: 1300 074 715
  • Email: safety@edumail.vic.gov.au

Conflict Resolution Support Service

If you are experiencing workplace conflict and are finding it difficult to resolve, please ensure your principal is aware there is a free service from the Department called the Conflict Resolution Support Service. You're welcome to call 1300 687 633 to seek advice, although you will need your principal's approval to engage the service.