Victorian workplace safety regulator charges the state’s health department over COVID-19 breaches

Victorian workplace safety regulator charges the state’s health department over COVID-19 breaches

WorkSafe Victoria has charged the state’s Department of Health with 17 breaches of Section 1 of the OHS Act, which notes failing to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that was safe and without risks to the health of its workers.

There are a further 41 breaches of section 23 (1) of the OHS Act, which alleges the department failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to ensure that persons other than employees weren’t exposed to risks to their health and safety by way of its undertakings.

The charges relate to the department’s responsibilities relating to the organisation, co-ordination and oversight of the state’s hotel quarantine program.

WorkSafe has alleged that the department breached the cited OHS laws by failing to utilise workers with infection prevention and control expertise at the hotel sites during the program.

It is further alleged that the department did not provide the security guards at the hotel with face-to-face infection prevention control training prior to them commencing work, and failed or initially failed to provide written instruction for the use of PPE at the site. The regulator further alleges that the department failed to update the written material relating to the mandate of wearing masks at several sites.

The maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of these charges is $1.64 million (9000 penalty units).

The investigation by the safety regulator took 15 months to complete, including statements from a number of witness statements and tens of thousands of documents.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Magistrates’ Court on 22 October. WorkSafe has clarified it won’t be commenting further as the matter is now before the courts.

Further investigations relating to COVID-19 risks are ongoing

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