Covid-19 Guide For Growers

COVID-19

Latest COVID-19 update

Notification process for employers of critical essential workers

 
Rule change to ensure critical work goes ahead
 

New close contact definition as at 31 December, 2021

(What if one of my employees is diagnosed with COVID)

Facemasks in packing sheds (QLD)

Rapid antigen tests

Continuity plans

Workcover Queensland and COVID-19

12 January, 2022

Notification process for employers of critical essential workers

A notification process has been developed for employers of essential workers who can can resume work while classified as close contacts, subject to strict health criteria.

Front line workers in the fresh food supply chain business are considered critical workers.

As an employer, you will need to:

  • Decide if your business falls into the list of critical industries – read here and approved ANZIC categories – read here
  • Create a Critical Worker List (roles) using the template (download from Resources tab here) to identify the roles and estimated number of workers in each role 
  • Email your Critical Worker List (roles) to criticalworkerlodgement@dsdilgp.qld.gov.au
  • Your business has three days to submit it from when the first close contact attends the critically essential work.

This is a self-assessment process.

The measures are only in place for close contacts who are fully vaccinated (booster where eligible) and asymptomatic.

Employers may be requested for information to verify the roles identified meet the criteria.

Close contact workers will also need to meet requirements such as wearing personal protective equipment, monitor symptoms and use private transport to and from work.  

Workers must continue quarantine when not performing their essential role until the end of their quarantine period, and have a COVID test on day 6. 

For more information and resources, read here 

10 January, 2022

Rule change to ensure critical work goes ahead

The Queensland Government has announced that critical workers will be able to provide essential services while they are classified close contacts, provided they meet strict health criteria.

Agriculture production and food supply chains are included in the government’s list of critical industries.

A ‘critically essential worker’ is someone employed in critical industries who must be in the workplace to do their job.

Critical or essential workers who are eligible and are able to work during the usual close contact quarantine period will be required to: 

  • travel to and from work in a private vehicle
  • while travelling and working wear appropriate PPE
  • maintain personal hygiene (hand washing etc)
  • undertake regular symptom surveillance 
  • undertake a RAT on Day 6, consistent with the requirements for all close contacts.

Workers will need to be fully vaccinated and must wear a mask, and must be asymptomatic.

If at any stage they develop symptoms, they need to return to quarantine immediately.

Read more here

6 January, 2022

New ‘close contact’ definition as at 31 December, 2021

Under current Queensland requirements, confirmed cases of COVID-19 must isolate for seven days from the date they test positive.

No other staff must isolate unless they are considered a close contact.

A close contact (see here for definition) – means a person who is a household member of a diagnosed person or a household-like contact of a diagnosed person.

If a staff member is diagnosed outside their home, they must travel directly to the premises they will be isolating at by private transport or government-arranged transport.

Businesses that become aware of a confirmed COVID-19 case attending the workplace should undertake a clean of the premises. Routine cleaning with standard household cleaning products is acceptable. A deep clean is not necessary.

More information on the Queensland Government’s guidance for managing COVID-19 in the workplace by is available here

The definition of a close contact and process for a positive case may vary between states.

Please check with the relevant authority (links below):

NSW

In NSW, masks must be worn in indoors (other than places of residence). Certain exemptions apply. Read more here 

Anyone who tests positive must tell household members that you have COVID-19, and they must isolate for 7 days, and get tested. Read more here 

Western Australia

A close contact is a person who has had face-to-face contact or shared a close space, for any amount of duration, with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (while they were considered infectious).

A person who has been in an area where there is a high prevalence of COVID-19 infection or has been in a venue when COVID-19 transmission was occurring.

Read more here

In WA, masks are mandated in all public indoor venues, public transport and outdoor events.

Northern Territory

A close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with COVID-19 while they were infectious that there is a possibility that they will have been infected with COVID-19. More here

As of 6pm 31 December, the Northern Territory announced a new facemask mandate.

Under this mandate, people must wear inside while the person is inside any premise, vehicle or vessel and cannot maintain a distance of 1.5m from other people.

Read more here

Facemasks in packing sheds (QLD)

The Queensland Government announced new directions on the wearing of facemasks which came into effect from 1am, 2 January 2022. This applies to all indoor settings apart from the home. See here

The ABGC Communications Team has received verbal advice from Queensland Health that packing sheds are classified as indoor spaces so the mandate applies. However, if the health and wellbeing of workers is compromised (for example, overheating from wearing facemasks) there could be grounds for a medical exemption. The ABGC Communications Team is seeking this advice in writing, to confirm that medical exemptions may apply to the facemask mandate in packing sheds (where health and well-being may be compromised), provided social distancing requirements are adhered to.

More information on this will be sent to all growers as soon as official advice is received.

The Comms Team will advise on facemask requirements for other states and territories as they are confirmed.

Rapid antigen tests

The surge of cases and testing is making it difficult to obtain a COVID-19 test.

A worldwide shortage of rapid antigen tests (RAT) is compounding the issue for businesses and industry.

Additional supply in transit is expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.

Develop a continuity plan

Growers are encouraged to review business continuity plans and consider risk mitigation strategies.

A business continuity plan will help you to:

  • identify and prevent or reduce, risks where possible
  • prepare for risks that you can’t control
  • respond and recover if a COVID-19 incident occurs

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has detailed business continuity planning resources and information on COVID-19 requirements available at the Engagement Hub or call DAF on 13 25 23.

Some safety measures that could be considered:

  • encourage all staff to get vaccinated to help reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading through the workplace;
  • screen staff, contractors, customers and other visitors to the workplace for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • keep accurate and up-to-date employee timesheets and records of attendance at the workplace, such as through a virtual or physical sign-in;
  • consider the benefits and costs of using the Check In Qld app if tracing is later required for contractors and other visitors
  • maintain up-to-date contact details for employees to help with contact tracing;
  • ensure that physical distancing and hygiene measures are applied in the workplace;
  • use phone calls, emails and video calling as an alternative to face-to-face meetings; and
  • ensure that anyone with the symptoms of COVID-19 stays away from the workplace and gets tested.

Workcover Queensland and COVID-19

Employers wanting more information on Workcover and employees that become infected with COVID-19, WorkSafe Queensland has some detailed FAQs here

If employers have further questions or concerns they should contact their Relationship Manager or call Workcover on 1300 362 128.

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has now made the Government’s COVID-19 Health Management Plan Template easier for banana growers to complete. The template is available by clicking on the green template button at the top of this page.

The Seasonal Workers Health Management Plan Direction requires all growers who employ seasonal workers, including visa holders, to complete and lodge a COVID-19 health management plan with Queensland Health.

From 17 August Queensland Government officers will be undertaking compliance checks across Far North Queensland assessing whether growers have adequate Health Plans in place.

Officers from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Workplace Health and Safety will target growers, businesses that provide transport services for seasonal workers and contract labour hire providers, in the Atherton Tablelands and in the Cassowary Coast.

Completed Health Management Plans are required to be submitted to  covid.plans@health.qld.gov.au.

ABGC has developed two separate documents, available here to assist growers to complete their individual Plans:

  1. COVID-19 Workplace Health Management Plan Template (includes examples of actions to assist in meeting requirements and is the document that growers must lodge to covid.plans@health.qld.gov.au) 
  2. COVID-19 Farm Record Keeping forms to be referred to in your Plan and used on farm as part of the requirements of the Plan.

A detailed FAQs about the management plan direction is available on the ABGC website here  abgc.org.au

ABGC’s detailed COVID-19 Guide for Banana Growers can be found here abgc.org.au

If you are unsure of your requirements as an employer, you can find more information on the ABGC’s website www.abgc.org.au or email DAFCOVID19Enquiries@daf.qld.gov

The continuing pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it have potential to significantly impact your banana farm business.

To assist, ABGC has created a downloadable Guide for Banana Growers on COVID-19 (Guide) which provides advice to growers on how to mitigate the risks and other important information.

To download and print a copy of the Guide, click on the link above.

ABGC has compiled this based on information available regarding COVID-19 from on-going meetings with Federal and State Government representatives, and with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Horticulture Council.

ABGC is also involved with several Government working groups which are developing practical solutions to COVID-19 issues facing growers.

This information is provided as current best-practice guide only. It does not constitute legal advice, or advice from a qualified medical professional. The purpose of this Guide is to provide one central source of information.

Please be aware that the situation is changing rapidly and that this Guide may need to be further revised.

ABGC will continually provide latest COVID-19 updates that affect industry on this dedicated COVID-19 page. See these updates below.

We will also continue to send out regular updates via our e-bulletins.  The situation is very fluid and to stay informed it is important that you read all e-bulletins sent out.

Any queries on the information in this Guide, please contact Jim Pekin, CEO, Australian Banana Growers’ Council:  Jim.pekin@abgc.org.au or phone  0447 799 667.

Previous COVID-19 news

8 August, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Queensland border restrictions for agribusiness and commercial fishing workers


The Border Restriction Direction (No. 11) came into effect at 1am on Saturday 8 August 2020. This direction will limit people coming into Queensland from a COVID-19 hotspot. Anyone can enter Queensland, unless they’ve been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days, or are a confirmed case of COVID-19. All of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are currently declared hotspots. 


People who have been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days will only be able to enter Queensland if they are a returning Queensland resident or required to enter for a limited range of essential activities.


People who are exempt from Queensland border restrictions

There are very limited circumstances which allow exempt people to enter Queensland from a COVID-19 hotspot.


Transporters of freight and logistics

Exemptions continue to be in place for people providing an essential activity in Queensland, such as transporters of freight and logistics to ensure the delivery of essential food and supplies. People who fall into this category do not need to apply for an exemption from the Chief Health Officer to undertake transport of freight or logistics into, from or through Queensland. However, they will need to complete a Queensland Border Declaration Pass.


People working in transport and logistics must remain isolated from the general public in their vehicle or accommodation until they depart Queensland, or for 14 days, whichever period is shorter. They must also keep and retain records of close contacts while you are in Queensland for 2 weeks after you arrive in Queensland.

Specialist worker

Agribusiness, commercial fishing and food manufacturing are considered essential activities in Queensland. A specialist worker can only enter Queensland from a COVID-19 hotspot if they are providing a service critical to Queensland (for example, critical agricultural operations necessary to maintain food supply). Exemptions will be considered on a case by case basis and will be very limited.

A business or company seeking an exemption to bring specialist workers into Queensland from a COVID-19 hotspot must provide evidence that:

  • the services can’t be obtained in Queensland
  • the services must be provided without delay (or in a specified time critical period
  • the person needs to be physically present in Queensland to complete the duty
  • the company or service provider has a plan in place that follows the requirements specified by the Chief Health Officer to manage risks associated with COVID-19 (for example a workplace health management plan).

Upon arrival in Queensland, an exempt specialist worker will need to provide the following information:

  1. their status as an approved specialist worker; and
  2. name of employer; and
  3. that they are entering Queensland to go directly to work; and
  4. the location of the worksite; and
  5. the location of where they will be accommodated in Queensland while performing the essential activity.

Application process

The status of the person as a specialist worker must be approved by the Chief Health Officer through the exemption process. To apply for a specialist worker exemption:

  1. Complete the application for specialist worker exemption form
  2. Your application will be assessed against the criteria outlined in the industry applicants guidelines
  3. If approval is given, a letter will be sent to your business/company advising that the specialist worker(s) has been granted an exemption from the Chief Health Officer
  4. The business/company should provide a copy of the letter to the relevant specialist worker to support their Border Declaration Pass on entry to Queensland.

For further information on these current arrangements including a list of frequently asked questions go to https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/coronavirus-support/border-restrictions-agriculture/_nocache

 

 

20 July, 2020

ABGC has been advised that the Queensland Government has stepped up its compliance monitoring activity to ensure all farms have a COVID-19 Health Management Plan in place.

This is in response to the positive case of COVID-19 on a farm in Bundaberg earlier this year.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and Queensland Police targeted farms last week in three regions being, Burdekin and Bowen-Gumlu, Sunshine Coast and Caboolture and Gayndah-Mundubbera. All three regions employ seasonal workers in horticulture.

If you unsure about your requirements as an employer, read more on the ABGC’s website here or email DAFCOVID19Enquiries@daf.qld.gov.au

Health Management Plans

The Queensland Government has introduced a new direction that commenced at 12:01 am on Tuesday 5 May, 2020 relating to the agriculture sectors being able to access a seasonal workforce, while still meeting their COVID-19 public health obligations.

The main change is that Health Management Plans are now required when farms and other agribusiness operations, including labour hire companies employ seasonal workers.

These plans are also required of accommodation providers for seasonal workers and transport providers for these people.

A template for the Health Management Plan for employers of seasonal workers is available here:

https://abgc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/health-management-plan-template-workplace.pdf

A signed version needs to be submitted to this email address covid.plans@health.qld.gov.au

This new direction is designed to protect farm businesses, their employees and the local community from the introduction and spread of COVID-19.

The Health Management Plan Flowchart summarises the various scenarios. 

A copy is available here:

https://abgc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/agribusiness-commercial-fishing-employers-flowchart4.pdf

Under this new Qld Government direction, seasonal worker means all workers who do not return to their usual place of residence each day. 

Technically the definition of a seasonal worker is:

An employee or contractor who usually resides outside of Queensland who:

  • holds a letter of appointment from an employer; and
  • travels to Queensland to work in agribusiness or commercial fishing; and
  • travels on an itinerant basis within Queensland to meet seasonal labour needs; or

An employee or contractor who usually resides in Queensland who:

  • holds a letter of appointment from an employer; and
  • travels on an itinerant basis within Queensland to work on a farm or other agribusiness operation to meet seasonal labour needs; and
  • does not return to their usual place of residence in Queensland each day.

More information on these changes are available online for businesses, including templates for the health management plans here 

Information has also been developed for seasonal workers, including temporary visa holders, on their requirements and is available here 

Farmers and labour hire companies employing seasonal workers are advised to consider the detail of the direction made effective 5 May.

The link below provides detailed frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the direction.

Employment

There are a number of useful government and industry resources to help job seekers looking for employment and growers looking for more workers. Click on the links below for the latest information.

Safe Food Queensland

Safe Food Queensland (Safe Food) has developed a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help food businesses manage the impacts of COVID-19.

The FAQs can be viewed here