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Infectious Diseases

Please note: The definition of Infectious Diseases may not represent a legal definition.

Infection is caused by pathogens ('bugs') such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa or fungi getting into or onto the body. Under Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) has primary duty of care to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. While infectious diseases (also known as communicable diseases) currently affect a relatively low number of workers, they could potentially become one of the biggest causes of illness within workplaces as well as in the community. Certain infectious diseases are required be notified to your State or Territories governing body for health.1


Since infection is caused by pathogens (such as bacteria and viruses) it can take some time before the microbes multiply enough to trigger symptoms of illness. This means an infected person may unwittingly be spreading the disease during this incubation period.

Infectious agents can be spread in a variety of ways, including:

  • Airborne—coughs or sneezes release airborne pathogens, which are then inhaled by others
  • Contaminated objects or food—the pathogens in a person's faeces may be spread to food or other objects, if their hands are dirty
  • Skin-to-skin contact—the transfer of some pathogens can occur through touch, or by sharing personal items, clothing or objects
  • Contact with body fluids—pathogens in saliva, urine, faeces or blood can be passed to another person's body via cuts or abrasions, or through the mucus membranes of the mouth and eyes


Infection control in the workplace aims to prevent pathogens from coming into contact with a person in the first place. The basis of good infection control in the workplace is to assume that everyone is potentially infectious. Proper procedures have to be followed at all times.

Good marketing of personal hygiene is the first line of defence. Infection control procedures relating to good personal hygiene include:

  • Hand washing
  • Covering cuts or abrasions with a waterproof dressing
  • Gloves

Many infections are food-borne. When preparing food, it is important to:

  • Wash hands before and after handling food
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
  • Use separate storage, utensils and preparation surfaces for cooked and uncooked foods
  • Wash all utensils and preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot water and detergent after use
  • Frequently, workplace illnesses are spread by droplet infection. Colds and flu are transmitted in this way, and sharing telephones is an infection risk. If at all possible, users should have personal headsets, and telephones should be regularly cleaned and sterilized.


Information SourceContents
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety
Work, Health and Safety Regulations 2011 – Incident Notification – prescribed serious illnessesInformation about the regulatory obligations involved in notifying for serious illnesses
UK Health & Safety Executive - Infections at workGeneral information on managing risks associated with infections in the workplace
Department of Health Communicable diseases information 


Information sourceWhat it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notificationHelps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 10 May 2019