Most of the safety regulators have provided information via their social media platforms to organisations and individuals. Employers will need to consider their working environment before staff return to their usual workplace to ensure your proposed arrangements are consistent with the latest advice from public health authorities.
To manage these obligations persons should undertake a risk assessment and consult with workers and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) before staff return to the usual workplace. This risk assessment will need to include consideration of the Government's current advice on physical distancing and whether your workplace can support all your workers returning at the same time while meeting those requirements.
As part of your risk assessment you must consider vulnerable workers and ensure that they are not put at risk by a direction to return to the workplace. Depending on your risk assessment it may be that vulnerable workers should remain in a working from home arrangement for a longer duration that those workers who are not vulnerable.
Victoria is preparing to introduce Workplace Manslaughter laws that come into effect on the 1st July 2020. The proposed Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and other matters) Bill 2019 (the WSLA Bill) will make amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to introduce a new criminal offence of workplace manslaughter.
Recently, WorkSafe Victoria delivered a Webinar outlining how these new laws may apply to employers and other duty holders where they significantly have management and control. An interesting question was asked to the WorkSafe panel in relation to COVID 19. 'Can employer be held accountable for a death of a worker because of COVID 19?' I believe the answer was 'depending on the circumstances, it could be investigated as Workplace Manslaughter!'
Furthermore, there was a large focus on monitoring the workplace to demonstrate compliance with the OHS Act 2004, Section 22 that outlines, the employer must monitor conditions at the workplace under the employer's management and control. In other words, if you are currently meeting all your OHS obligation's they will be no significant changes to your business!
HAZCON has continued delivering our services to our clients with additional precautions to ensure safety is at the forefront. There is no doubt that 2020 has been a difficult year for each and everyone of us and HAZCON looks forward to maintaining and building our relationships for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.