Retailers across Greater Sydney are on notice that they can expect a visit from SafeWork NSW to check that they are complying with the Public Health Orders and the Duty of Care to assess risk and implement controls to protect staff from risk.

All businesses (and PCBUs) have a Duty of Care to ensure the safety of staff.  This is a positive duty.  This means that businesses can be in breach of the laws and receive penalties (or jail time) for not adequately assessing and responding to risks to the safety of workers.  All businesses are required to understand the risk in the workplace, review current risk settings, review and understand current mitigation strategies, and implement controls and hazard mitigation strategies appropriate to their business.

COVID-19 is a risk to the safety of staff (as well as customers) and must be assessed, reviewed and responded to like any other risk (such as ignition sources in the hazardous zones).

So a business that does not put into place appropriate controls to protect their staff from COVID-19 could face penalties, even if their staff do not get sick (that is what a positive duty means, a breach can occur due to a lack of appropriate system or control, even without a safety incident).

 SafeWork NSW, Director of Work Health and Safety Dimitri Argeres, said inspectors will be out in force, across Greater Sydney, targeting retailers and specifically supermarkets from Saturday.

“While the vast majority of businesses are making every effort to ensure they do the right thing, it’s now more important than ever for all retailers to be COVID smart and COVID safe,” Mr Argeres said.

“Any business found breaking the rules may be subjected to fines and could face a closure.”

A key part of compliance for businesses is the requirement they have the correct QR sign in procedures and ensure customers are checking in using the Service NSW QR code app.

Inspectors will be focusing on ensuring businesses have COVID Safety Plans in place, are adhering to check-in processes, and ensuring they are respecting the physical distancing and mask wearing requirements.

“The COVID-Safe requirements are in place for an important reason, and all businesses need to make sure they are fully compliant,” Mr Argeres said.

“The need for customers to check in when entering retail stores cannot be overstated, as it allows for effective contact tracing.

“It is critically important businesses have the correct check-in measures for customers and that patrons are doing the right thing and checking in, otherwise severe penalties apply,” Mr Argeres said.

Where businesses are found to be non-compliant, penalties of up to $5,000 can apply for a first offence while repeat offending can lead to business closures.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
Executive Manager for Employment and Training