Updated 25th August 2020
It is important for all employers and independent contractors to be aware of any workplace health and safety updates that may impact your business, workplace and employees.
With strict COVID-19 restrictions still in effect throughout Victoria, here are three important WorkSafe reminders for employers, self-employed persons and independent contractors in Victoria:
1. COVID-19 Reporting
Under the new Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations 2020 extension of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004, employers are now required to notify WorkSafe immediately when they become aware a worker has received a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis.
This may include an employee, an independent contractor or a contractor's employee who 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 clearance from isolation from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The new Regulations came into force on 28 July 2020 and will remain in place for 12 months. 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.
To notify WorkSafe of a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis, employers or self-employed persons should call the WorkSafe advisory service on 13 23 60.
2. WorkCover Claims
The Victorian Government has reported that About 70-80% of Victorian healthcare workers with COVID-19 caught it at work. On 25th August 2020, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the following announcement:
"My message to every healthcare worker [is] if you get coronavirus at work, put in a WorkCover claim straight away... It will be fast-tracked and we will get you the support you need."
Before your employee submits a WorkCover claim, there are important steps you need to take. These include:
🔸 Reporting the illness to WorkSafe immediately on 13 23 60.
🔸 Sending a completed incident notification form to WorkSafe within 48 hours, and keeping a copy of the completed form in your records for five years. This applies to all incidents that take place at your workplace even if the affected person is not one of your workers.
🔸 Record the illness in your organisation's register of injuries - this should be done by the affected worker, or a support person on their behalf.
⚠️ The employer is responsible for submitting all the WorkCover claim documents.
Employers must act fast. You have 10 calendar days to lodge the claim with your WorkSafe agent from the time you receive the worker's injury claim form from your worker. There can be penalties for failing to meet this timeframe. Your WorkSafe agent has 28 days to assess the claim and let you know the outcome.
Step 1. Your worker must complete an injured worker’s claim form
Step 2. You must complete the employer’s claim report
Step 3. You may need to work with a Circumstance Investigator
Learn more about WorkCover here: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/getting-started-workcover-insurance
Under OHS laws, employers who are making changes to the workplace to help slow the spread of COVID-19 must consult their workers. If there is a health and safety representative (HSR), they must be involved in the consultation.
There are minimum requirements for complying with the employer duty to consult, including consulting on any of the following health and safety matters:
🔸 Identifying or assessing hazards or risks
🔸 Making decisions on how to control risks
🔸 Making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for employee welfare
🔸 Making decisions about procedures to: - resolve health and safety issues - consult with employees on health and safety - monitor employees’ health and workplace conditions - provide information and training
🔸 Determining the membership of any Health and Safety Committee (HSC) in the organisation
🔸 Proposing changes that may affect employees’ health or safety to any of the following: - the workplace - plant, substances or other things used in the workplace, or - the work performed at the workplace
🔸 Doing any other thing prescribed by OHS regulations
While employers, HSRs and employees should aim to reach agreement as a result of consultation, agreement is not a required outcome of OHS Act. An employer is still ultimately responsible for making decisions about health and safety.
Learn more about what you must do here: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/consultation
4. Workplace Manslaughter & Mental Hazards
Workplace manslaughter is now a jailable offence. The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Act 2019 is now in effect, commencing 1 July 2020.
Employers that fail to meet health and safety obligations could face up to 25 years in prison for individuals or $16 million in fines for corporations should their negligence lead to a worker dying on the job.
This includes suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, such as a toxic culture of bullying, harassment and discrimination.
Employers have a legal duty to address psychological risks and hazards in the workplace, such as:
⚠️ Bullying and harassment
⚠️ Work-related stress
The new workplace manslaughter law sends a strong message that putting people's lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated. It does not create additional duties, just much tougher penalties on already existing duties under the OHS Act. Employers and duty-holders should always stop to think about the risks involved in the conduct of their business, and what steps can be taken to mitigate those risks.
Learn more about Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter offences here: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/victorias-new-workplace-manslaughter-offences
During the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkPlacePLUS remains open for business. We are available to assist you with any workplace issues that you may be facing. For a confidential discussion about the specific needs of your organisation, please contact us today.