WorkSafe Victoria investigates companies for COVID-safe breaches

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 22 September, 2020 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

WorkSafe Victoria is investigating around 30 companies for COVID-related WHS breaches for potential prosecution while more than 300 companies have been ordered to improve their COVID-safe work plans, according to Victoria’s Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.

The regulator has conducted more than 3200 inquiries and site visits and the Attorney-General said some companies have failed to implement basic hygiene controls and put in adequate protocols to deal with positive COVID cases.

“It’s important to know and to understand that when WorkSafe visits there are a range of legal consequences and so essentially they are legal obligations around people complying with [Chief Health Officer] directions,” said Attorney-General Hennessy at a recent briefing with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“[We] are ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to make sure that we use the workplace as a really significant platform that we start really significantly reducing any of the risks of transmission.

“The blitz is making a significant contribution to that end but we remain very, ready, willing and able to help any others that require assistance or intervention.”

As of late July, employers were required to notify WorkSafe Victoria immediately on becoming aware that an employee or an independent contractor or a contractor’s employee has received a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis and has attended the workplace during the infectious period.

Self-employed persons are also required to directly inform WorkSafe immediately on receiving a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis if they have attended the workplace during the infectious period.

The infectious period begins on the date 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis (whichever comes first), until the day on which the person receives a clearance from isolation from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the OHS Act can lead to fines of up to $39,652 (240 penalty units) for an individual or $198,264 (1200 penalty units) for a body corporate.

The new regulations came into force on 28 July 2020 and will remain in place for 12 months.